'Much more subdued': Why Antioch decided not to cancel its fireworks after Highland Park tragedy

  • Some suburbs carried on with fireworks shows Tuesday.

      Some suburbs carried on with fireworks shows Tuesday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/5/2022 4:43 PM

In the hours after Monday's mass shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade that left seven people dead, officials from surrounding suburbs faced a question: Call off their Independence Day festivals, concerts and fireworks or carry on?

Most canceled, many citing a foreboding afternoon and evening weather forecast in addition to being sensitive to the day's tragedy.

 

Some, including Antioch, Bartlett, Glen Ellyn, and Aurora, held their fireworks shows as scheduled Monday night after conferring with local law enforcement about safety.

"It truly was a lose, lose situation," said Antioch Mayor Scott Gartner, who was walking in his town's parade when he heard about the shooting. "If we cancel everything, there's going to be a portion of people who are angry, and if you go forward, there were going to be people who were angry on that side. I just felt that given that it was Independence Day and we're supposed to be celebrating freedom, we'd give people the choice."

Gartner said he wouldn't have considered holding the fireworks without feeling confident the community, which is about 30 miles north of Highland Park, was safe.

"I was in constant contact with law enforcement all day and was assured there was no immediate threat to the area," he said. "It was a very tough decision, but once I made it, we just wanted to make sure everything was going to be safe and we did something respectful."

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The village held a moment of silence and short prayer service with a local pastor before the fireworks.

Gartner said it was a much smaller, and more somber, crowd than the village normally has.

"It wasn't the normal celebratory thing. It was much more subdued," he said. "Believe me, what happened in Highland Park was top of mind for everybody who was there."

Online reaction on the village's Facebook page to carrying on with the event was mixed, but Gartner said he does not regret his decision.

"The situation is obviously a tragedy and I didn't want to diminish what happened, but if we keep canceling things and let the bad guy win every time, where's it going to end up?"

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