The South Pekin Independence Day celebration Wednesday attracted an estimated crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 from around the area to the little town of 1,140 residents.
The event, put on by the South Pekin Town Twisters, an organization that puts on events and does volunteer work for the community, featured a fireworks display and food vendors. The Pekin Lettes, the oldest continuous major women’s fast-pitch team in the world since 1930, played in the annual Inez Reader Memorial Softball game. Families fanned out across the park lawn with blankets, many wearing patriotic clothing. Children ran through the park waving lighted wands, and the small playground swings and slide were filled with children waiting their turn.
The crowd was pleased with the event. Local residents said the event was about more than fun.
“Freedom — It’s America’s birthday,” said Richard Lippert. He said many of his family members over the generations fought to defend America.
“In this day and age you’ve got to come out and support your country,” said Chad Hoehn of South Pekin. “I think that’s the most important thing.
“That’s what we’re here for. We celebrate the Fourth because our forefathers fought for our country. That’s how I think of the Fourth.”
Village Trustee Randy Martin said the event gets bigger and bigger every year. It gives people from out of town a taste of small town life.
“The Twisters started the fireworks about five years ago,” said Martin. “You remember years ago we had South Pekin Railroad Days, and that was a good thing.
“This is our big event now. The Twisters put it on with all donation and all volunteers — that’s great. Hopefully we can get some more food vendors next year. Maybe the fire department, volunteers or the village itself can do some food to raise funds for the department. This is great to bring to the community.”
The small town life is about volunteers, said Martin. For example, a resident donated the money to build a new pavilion at the park. Former Mayor Rick Huse and others are building the structure.
“All of the volunteers help tremendously and we have a lot of volunteers behind-the-scenes,” he said. Martin said a local businesswoman was there selling wrist bands to benefit the volunteer fire department. “That’s just stuff that the community does.”
Town Twisters Treasurer Jo Ann Lamb said the number of members able to help this year dropped from 10 to five, but the event went off successfully with the help of a few volunteers who made phone calls and performed other tasks.
“It gets bigger and better every year,” said Lamb. “We’re going to continue to do the fireworks so all of the families can get together.”
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin