Great Lakes cancels July 4 celebration
Naval Station Great Lakes Commanding Officer Captain Randall Lynch. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 15, 2013 2:36AM
GREAT LAKES — The mandatory budget cuts known as the sequester is now reality for Naval Station Great Lakes.
Capt. Randy Lynch, the base’s commanding officer, said Friday the annual Fourth of July celebration will be canceled due to the budget uncertainty.
“It is unfortunate that we must cancel the event this year,” Lynch said. “It is definitely a fantastic opportunity for the Navy and the installation to give back to the community for all they do for us each year. Hopefully, budgets will allow for the event to take place in 2014 and subsequent years.”
The annual free event, which was put on hiatus for six years following the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks because Great Lakes became a closed military installation, attracted thousands from the Great Lakes community and throughout Lake County.
John Prue, installation program director for the base’s Morale, Welfare & Recreation Department has been involved in coordinating the event for more than 20 years, said, Assuming the budget issues are fixed down the line, my MWR Team will be ready to re-implement this internationally recognized event in 2014.”
Base officials said that while the bulk of the public festival has been self-supporting with the help of corporate sponsorships and revenues through retail sales on-site, security costs for the event cannot be absorbed based on the current fiscal climate and direction from higher authorities.
The celebration has been held since Great Lakes opened on July 1, 1911. For decades, the celebration was internal and brought together military families, civilian employees and invited guests from the community to celebrate the nation’s birthday, and also to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the naval installation.
The celebrations took the shape of a family picnic or barbecues and, in most years, some form of fireworks display was a part of the annual festivities.
In 1993, MWR event coordinators opened the holiday celebration to the public, using historic Ross Field for the event. From the mid-1990s through 2001, Great Lakes hosted the public festival, bringing in headliner musical acts like REO Speedwagon, the Doobie Brothers, Charlie Daniels, Eddie Money, Joan Jett, and Cheap Trick.
The event also became known for its fireworks and laser shows set to music. Both in 2000 and 2001, the event received International Festival & Events Association recognition with various awards.
After being canceled for six years due to the terrorist attacks, it once again was opened to the public in 2008. In 2011, the centennial of Great Lakes, the celebration drew about 55,000 people, and was recognized as one of the top three such events in the world.