Amid rising COVID-19 cases, Elk Grove Village calls off tree lighting, rally, fireworks
A little more than a month after announcing plans for a combined tree lighting, rally and fireworks show paying tribute to first responders and essential workers, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson on Tuesday called off the spectacle, amid rising COVID-19 case numbers.
"We always wanted to err on the side of safety and caution," Johnson said during a village board meeting Tuesday night.
While other towns were already canceling their tree lightings or scheduling virtual ceremonies, Johnson on Oct. 8 held a news conference to unveil his plans to keep Elk Grove's annual holiday tradition going. The event was to have been within a fenced perimeter on the Village Green next to village hall, and all attendees would have been required to wear masks.
"We set up an elaborate setup to make it as safe as possible, with masks. But we also said from the first day we started talking about this: we're firm but flexible," Johnson said.
Since Johnson's initial announcement, the daily COVID-19 caseload in the region has skyrocketed, the Cook County Department of Public Health issued a stay-at-home advisory, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier Tuesday ordered tighter statewide restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
Johnson said he was still hopeful, as recently as a week ago, that the day-after-Thanksgiving event could still go forward. But following conversations over the weekend with the police and fire chiefs, and concern over the safety of the 50 village employees who were to have worked the event, the mayor decided it was best to cancel.
While the ceremony, fireworks show and Santa's visit has been called off, the display of 250,000 lights has been installed throughout the municipal complex, and will automatically turn on the evening of Friday, Nov. 27, officials said.
The main tree is decorated with white lights, in tribute to health care workers, while rows of smaller trees on each side of the splash pad are in blue, for police, and red, for firefighters. Green lights throughout the courtyard represent all essential workers and the community, officials said.