Residents of Blue Island can still remember when the Fourth of July used to be a big deal.
For 150 years, the city and community based clubs put together an Independence Day celebration with floats, festivities and fireworks. But budget cuts and leadership changes discontinued the investment in the parade and fireworks show about two decades ago, city leadership said Friday, leaving residents with just memories of a cherished tradition.
“People bring it up all the time, especially if you’ve been in town — childhood, whatever,” said Mayor Fred Bilotto. “Most people do remember it, even if they were young.”
Blue Island’s connection to July 4 festivities is etched in the town’s history books, making it’s way into “The First Hundred Years, 1835 – 1935: A History of Blue Island” by John Volp.
“July 4th was the big day,” writes Volp. “This holiday seemed to have been made especially for the volunteer firemen and on this day the ‘department’ was out in full force and in its greatest splendor.”
Volp described a band, elaborate procession and a large presence at the front led by the Fire Department.
Bilotto said conversations with residents confirm infrastructure and safety are still the top priorities.
“We have many issues rather than bringing a parade back. But now it’s my third year and we’ve gotten some things taken care of,” he said, specifically noting the groundbreaking of a beautification process for a 2-mile stretch of Western Avenue. “Now we’re moving on to the smaller items that came up, that people want to (see) the parade come back.”
This first year back may not be exactly like the “big day” Volp described. City leadership warned it is easing back into the offering and hope this is the first of many years in a renewed tradition.
The parade will begin at noon on July 4, and run south from 123rd Street to Grove Street.
Then, at 9 p.m., fireworks will shoot off at Waterfall Park.
“People have been asking for this,” City Clerk Raeann Zylman said.
Floats, business and bands, including the locally renowned bagpipers, the Stockyard Kilty Band, have signed up. Zylman said they get about one signup a week but there is room for more to apply.