Chicago cancels July 3rd fireworks at Taste of Chicago
Saves $500K with shows on July 4 at Navy Pier, north, south lakefront
Declining city revenues and evaporating corporate sponsors on Wednesday claimed Chicago’s most spectacular show: the annual July 3 fireworks extravaganza in Grant Park — a highlight of Taste of Chicago.
Instead of having one gigantic show on July 3 that typically draws more than 1.2 million people and stretches city services to the brink, Chicago will hold three smaller synchronized fireworks shows on July 4 at Navy Pier and at locations on the north and south lakefront.
The Navy Pier show will be paid for by the McPier Authority. The city will bankroll the north and south lakefront shows, tentatively planned for Montrose and 63rd Street beaches.
The shows will last 15 minutes, down from 18 minutes at the July 3 gala. Taste of Chicago will continue. But it will close earlier on July 3 and 4 — at 6 p.m.
Special Events Director Megan McDonald tried to put the best possible face on the end of a 35-year tradition in Chicago.
“There are cities across the country that have flat-out canceled their fireworks [and said], ‘We’re not doin’ ’em. Too bad everybody. Stay home.’ Chicago is saying, ‘We’re still doing our Independence Day celebration and, in fact, we’re enhancing it by bringing it into the neighborhoods. I think that’s a great thing,” she said.
But McDonald made no bones about the reasons for the change, which is expected to save the city a minimum of $500,000.
“We’re doing it to be fiscally responsible because we have to be. We’re also doing it to more effectively manage what happens at the Taste of Chicago, as well as citywide, on an already busy holiday weekend,” she said.
Ald. Helen Shiller (46th), whose ward includes Montrose Beach, welcomed the change, as long as traffic is controlled and Lake Shore Drive remains open.
“If this saves us money and makes the fireworks more accessible for neighborhoods north and south, I’m cool with it,” Shiller said.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), whose ward includes the 63rd Street Beach, said the change “brings the Fourth of July into the neighborhoods.”
Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) applauded the “serious effort to cut costs.” But, he said, “That’s a big weekend for hotels and restaurants. They pay their fair share of taxes. I just want to make sure that, in trying to save costs by canceling the big celebration that we aren’t inadvertently costing ourselves city revenue.”
The city has been holding the show on July 3 since 1975, starting at Olive Park north of Navy Pier, then moving to Grant Park in 1978. It replaced a longtime private show run by the American Legion at Soldier Field.