July 4th fireworks to go back to UI

July 4th fireworks to go back to UI

CHAMPAIGN — This year's Independence Day fireworks will be back at the University of Illinois, and the 5K race and parade will be moved up two hours to avoid the heat, the new president of the Champaign County Freedom Celebration Committee said Monday.

The evening fireworks show had been moved from the UI's Stadium Terrace area, west of Memorial Stadium, to Parkland College after 2006 because of construction on the stadium. And there wasn't any discussion of moving it back until this year, said Ginny Schlorff, president of the all-volunteer group.

"We brought it back this year to take a look at it and the U of I was open to it. They're wanting to do things with the community and work with the cities," she said. "We had a real nice meeting."

It's still not certain where the fireworks show will be held. The old site at Stadium Terrace is out because much of it is now athletic fields covered with artificial turf.

"Right now we're looking at E-14," the large paved parking lot west of the Assembly Hall, Schlorff said. "That has been our suggestion. We met with the folks at the U of I and the different police departments. We like E-14 because the city planners did the map and the fireworks clearance is good. You have to have so many feet of clearance for the fireworks. And if it's on concrete, it is easier to clean up the cardboard shell casings. I think that will be a good spot.

"The only negative is that we will lose parking. We'll lose that whole (E-14) parking lot and we probably won't be able to use the two west quadrants of the Assembly Hall parking lots. But I think people watch these fireworks from everywhere and somehow when it's at the U of I, I think people don't mind parking and walking."

Another problem leaving Parkland, she said, is that it will be more difficult to collect money from those watching the fireworks.

"We're just going to have to increase our corporate sponsorships," she said, "and look at other ways of raising money."

Schlorff said she expects that the Independence Day planning will be firmed up after a Jan. 9 meeting with officials from the two cities and the UI.

For now, she said, plans are to begin the Fourth of July 5K race at 9 a.m. and the parade at 11 a.m. The parade has begun at 1:05 p.m. ever since the first Freedom Celebration in 1950.

"It's kind of like, why has it been at 1 p.m. for some 60 years?" she said, laughing. "Everybody said it was a great idea. It was an a-ha moment. I just thought, 'We should have done this before.'

"The reason is because of the heat," she said. "It was one of those things like doing the parade backwards (another change the committee made a few years ago when it started the parade at the Assembly Hall parking lot and ended it in Urbana). Once you think about it, it's like, why not? Why didn't we do this years ago? I think this will be well-received."

She said she believes attendance at the parade was down last year when the high temperature on July 4 was 100 degrees at 1:32 p.m.

"I think our numbers were down last year because of the heat, and it was one of the best parades in a long time. We're hoping that if it's cooler, we'll get more people out," she said. "Plus, little kids nap in the afternoon so if we're doing it earlier, we hope we can draw some of those families too."

This year's parade will again feature large, cold-air balloons that were a part of the festivities for the first time last year.

"That was well-received and it went great," Schlorff said. "I think we will have at last three of those again."

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welive wrote on January 01, 2013 at 8:01 am

ye there are lots of places to park for people to watch the fireworks on and around the stadium, not to mention great roads to get everyone home.This is not a good idea. yes the first year when mattis was under constuction was a madhouse,however the last couple years no problem.This will be one person who will not attend this madness. The parking at parkland and the fields provided great space for families to relax and enjoy.Now lets just see what happens.

bmwest wrote on January 01, 2013 at 10:01 am
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I agree, Parkland seems to work out pretty well and feels more inviting to attend as a family than the old location.  We'll have to wait and see how this new location goes.  We'll still attend, it might just be a tad less relaxing than Parkland.

kaw wrote on January 01, 2013 at 9:01 am

Trying to be positive about this, but what about the small towns that have parades in the morning?  What about the Champaign neighborhoods that have parades in the morning? This forces people to make a choice they didn't have to make before.  We expect it to be hot on the 4th of July--it's summer!  I would imagine this will decrease attendance, not enhance it.  

amf wrote on January 01, 2013 at 9:01 am

I'm thrilled with these changes!  We didn't attend the parade last year for the two reasons listed - it was too hot and my kids nap during that time.  We will definitely show up for an 11 a.m. parade!

As for the fireworks, I can see that there are pros and cons to both sites.  Personally, I much prefer it at the U of I.  We haven't watched the fireworks a single year since they moved to Parkland - it's just too much of a hassle.  When it was at the U of I, we could see them from just about anywhere, and if we wanted a really good view we could just walk or bike a little closer.  That just wasn't possible for us the last 6 years.


AnnieG wrote on January 01, 2013 at 11:01 am
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Very glad for these changes! The heat was exactly why I didn't go to the parade last year, and I think the two hour difference will be good for a lot of people.

Fireworks at Parkland were okay, but trying to leave afterward was always a nightmare. This was never a problem when they were at U of I so I am definitely looking forward to the change!

Joe American wrote on January 01, 2013 at 12:01 pm

People complain about the circulation out of Parkland, but the congestion around the U of I was MUCH worse.  Parking was very random at the U of I, but it was very efficient and abundant at Parkland.  In the few years they've had it at Parkland, I've never once felt crowded.  The opposite is true for the U of I.

The people who like it at the U of I like it merely for nostalgia sake, recalling that thiis was "the way we've always done it".  Time to let go, people.  Unfortunately, the U of I has long outgrown it's ability to provide comfortable accomodations and passage in and out.  I thought the change to Parkland was a positive step forward - not perfect, but arguably the best option in the CU area.

This face will not be seen at the U of I fireworks anytime in the future, and the Committee can kiss goodbye any further support from our group of attendees, usually numbering from 12-20.  Bad move.

KOR wrote on January 01, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Moving the parade time seems logical to me. However, moving the fireworks location out of the large grassy park is not wise.

urbana1234 wrote on January 01, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Don't bother going to the fireworks but so glad the 5k was moved to a more sensible time while I would have preferred an 8am start, 9am is much better than running at noon!

illiniearl wrote on January 01, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I remember back in the 70's anyway, the fireworks were held inside the stadium which was always a great venue.   You also had a captive audience to collect donations from.   Maybe a portion of the artifical turf could be covered to protect it from damage for ground displays and the aerial displays could be discharged from the Assembly Hall parking lot.

SheikofHyrule wrote on January 01, 2013 at 2:01 pm

This is great news to start off the year.  We only went to Parkland the first year, but after the exit nightmare, where we parked at the Illinois Department of Employment Security that took less than five minutes to get onto Mattis and then took an hour to get to University Avenue.  Since then we watched from Centennial Hill.

Thankfully we live near Assembly Hall so we might get to see it from our front yard.

Jsmith68 wrote on January 01, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Again this is why the News Gazette consistently prints the wrong information or refuses to show the true side of some things.  The real reason it is being moved is because of the two murders in the past two years near the Parkland location, and the numerous fights that have broken out in the area around there.  This is squarely on the shoulders of the people who live in the Garden Hills area. The police obviously have been unable to get a handle on this and it is time the city stops risking lives by having it at Parkland.  

BigD wrote on January 01, 2013 at 10:01 pm

YUP kinda agree.  Parkland surrounding area very dangerous.  U of I just send the fireworks really, really high in the air - get good corporate sponsors - and find creative ways to raise money instead of charging by the car (ie. Parkland).   SUCCESS!

Marti Wilkinson wrote on January 04, 2013 at 2:01 pm

As a resident of Garden Hills I'm glad to see the fireworks gone. As for your remarks that the residents are responsible for the violence, let me point out that the murder that occurred last year happened to someone who didn't even live in the area. Plus, both suspects who had been arrested came from another part of town. The only people responsible for the death of the young woman, are the individuals who killed her. It serves no purpose to place the blame on an entire neighborhood. 

Studies also show that poverty rates have a direct impact on crime rates. If we, as a society, address the underlying cause (poverty) then we will see changes in the effects (crime). However, it's far easier to blame the character of people instead of looking at the different variables which plays a role. With the Joanne Dorsey housing projects being demolished, it would be interesting to see what kind of long term impact that will have on this neighborhood.

Additionally, there is also a divide where the railroad tracks are. More activity is observed in the southern part of the subdivision than in the northern portion. The recent murder-suicide that occurred here was most likely a product of domestic violence, and that is something that can happen to anyone in any neighborhood.

There aren't any residential areas located next to Memorial Stadium, and there are main roads that surround the location. Around Parkland you have Mattis, Bradley, and Duncan.  There are only three points of entry/exit to Parkland, and Duncan has limited usefulness as a main drag. There is a point after Parkland where Duncan stops, and another portion of Duncan then goes out to Bloomington Rd.

sameeker wrote on January 01, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I don't believe the people whining about the heat. It is July folks! What's next? Shall they just have the parade march around inside the assembley hall so people can get in out of the heat and have a seat to sit in? America is become a nation of wimpy people.

nndsmom wrote on January 03, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Umm... wouldn't exactly suggest the Assembly Hall.  It is not air conditioned and definitely not for wimpy people in the summer.

Brownie wrote on January 01, 2013 at 8:01 pm


gummo2 wrote on January 02, 2013 at 1:01 am

Nothing says "Freedom Celebration" like spreading out my blanket on top of concrete, gravel, and broken glass to watch fireworks. In fact, I may plan a relaxing picnic in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Pass the iced tea!!

squad33 wrote on January 02, 2013 at 6:01 am


The change in the parade start time should have been done years ago.  I have marched in the parade as a scout, and as a high school marching band member.  I have also led students in the parade as a high school band director.  It makes no sense to start a parade at the hottest part of the day during the hottest time of year.  Every year, even with armies of parents carrying water bottles and spray bottles, we would have several students unable to finish the parade.  Some years this would be as high as 20% of the band.  It is not safe.  While nothing can be done about the date, changing the time makes perfect sense.    The parade is entertainment; it should be as safe as possible for the entertainers.  Instead of complaining about the time, be thankful there are people willing to do this for you.

rsp wrote on January 02, 2013 at 9:01 am

Every time I've seen those kids march I've wondered about the logic. It should feel like an honor and they should have good memories of being there but instead they just look like they are suffering. 

wayner63 wrote on January 02, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Not a fan of moving fireworks back to UI.  Hope it stays at Parkland.

nndsmom wrote on January 03, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I like the idea of having it at the U of I (it's been at Parkland ever since I've lived here this time so I am not in favor of it just because "it was always done that way") because it seems the location is more central so the traffic flow afterwards will be more spread out in different directions rather than most everyone trying to head east out of Parkland.  Of course, given that I live just off campus and will probably be able to watch most of the fireworks from home means I'll be staying out of your way as you try to exit.

As for raising money, that's what overpriced concessions are for.  I say cut the parking fees altogether and sell more lemonade, snow cones, and crappy plastic toys that will fall apart before the kids get 'em home.