Pekin’s Fourth of July Honor America Celebration may not be possible without the support of community volunteers and sponsorships from area businesses and organizations.
“It takes so many volunteers to do this,” said Renna Hadsall, events manager for the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce. “Nobody is paid to shoot off these fireworks, but the shooters are all volunteers that give up their Fourth of July to set this up in the morning and shoot (fireworks) off at night. So, their day is tied up with this completely. That’s the thing I think is always amazing about our Fourth of July celebration.”
The Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce will host this year’s Honor America celebration Thursday at Pekin Memorial Stadium. Gates will open at 7:00 p.m. and fireworks will begin at dusk. There have been public fireworks displays in Pekin since 1948.
“I’ve always thought our Fourth of July show was a great family and community experience,” said Bill Fleming, executive director of the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce. “You see all your friends and neighbors there.”
Due to ongoing repairs, no seating will be allowed on the stadium field this year, according to Hadsall.
“That’s disappointing to some people because it’s a tradition,” she added. “But (Pekin High School District 303) is working on that field. They had to wait until after graduation to start the work.”
Approximately50 volunteers have signed up to work at the event, and approximately 60 businesses from throughout central Illinois have purchased sponsorships, Hadsall said. The Pekin Dragons Athletic Booster Club will operate concession stands on both sides of the stadium. An honor guard from Pekin High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training program will raise the United States flag at the beginning of the event and lower it at the end, Pekinite Bree Carroll will sing “The Star Spangled Banner,” and Miss Marigold 2018 Dakota Richmond will lead the Pledge of Allegiance as one of the last official acts of her one-year reign.
“It takes all the volunteers to put this together,” said Hadsall “We have volunteers at the gate letting people in. We have volunteers who are setting up in the morning to put the banners on the stands. They involve their families, too. A lot of them have brought children and grandchildren (in the past), and they work with their spouses at the gate.”
Volunteers are also involved in the most highly anticipated part of any Fourth of July celebration: the launching of the fireworks. Hadsall believes that the experience of the volunteers is conducive to not merely an eye-catching aerial display, but a safe one as well.
“Our volunteer shooters have been doing this for a long time,” she said. “They are licensed, they are great shooters, and they know what they’re picking out when they pick out the fireworks. We have a ground crew that will make sure you get a little something extra if you’re inside the stadium. They know what they’re looking for when they go purchase those fireworks.”
Admission to the Honor America celebration is $5 for adults and $1 for children between the ages of 6 and 12. Admission is free for children 5 and under. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce at 402 Court St., Pekin.