Watch CBS News

A Celebration Or 'Night Of The Purge?' Neighbors Divided Over Fireworks Show At Winnemac Park In Lincoln Square

CHICAGO (CBS) -- If you live in the city of Chicago, you know 4th of July fireworks invariably start well before July 4th.

As CBS 2's Marie Saavedra reported Wednesday night, there are talks between neighbors about a beloved, yet unofficial fireworks show that has been happening for decades at Winnemac Park in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. Some think it's a grand celebration, and some would not be sorry to see it go.

"I love open green spaces," said Russ Klettke. "I learned a lot about gardening from the prairie gardens here."

Winnemac Park is bounded by Foster Avenue, Damen Avenue, Argyle Street, and Leavitt Street, and flanked by Eliza Chappell Elementary School and Amundsen High School. It hosts a 2.7-acre native prairie habitat among its amenities, and it is Klettke's favorite neighbor.

"I moved here in part for this park," he said.

But the relationship is strained late June into July as we get closer to the 4th.

"It's the night of the purge, I call it," Klettke said.

He meant the decades-long unofficial fireworks show inside the park, which inevitably returns at this time of year. Chicago bans such pyrotechnics, but it happens.

Klettke just wishes it happened elsewhere.

"If you're going to do fireworks illegally - which is kind of hard to stop - do it in a brownfield site where there are no people around it. This park is surrounded with homes," he said, "and certainly not where there's a nature preserve."

Klettke decided to poll his neighbors and he heard from 531 of them. About half said they don't approve of the show, but 49.9% want to leave it as is.

Angel Lopez is among those 49.9%.

"I will admit I am one that actually does fireworks here sometimes," he said.

You'll find Lopez and his proud family of veterans and immigrants in the park every July 4th.

"It's a big event, and it's a day to come together and celebrate," Lopez said.

He feels without a crackdown from the Chicago Park District or Chicago Police, the show should stand. But he cares about the green space too.

"We do respect and we do follow the rules, but like I say, I can't speak for everybody else and everybody else's actions," Lopez said.

So Lopez is open to conversations about how this holiday can be better for the area. The options could include a shorter launch window, or more conversations between neighbors who love Winnemac Park - like Klettke and Lopez.

"I hold out hope that we'll be a little more thoughtful about animals and individuals for whom loud noises are a problem," Klettke said.

"My plan for the 4th is this year just to relax and enjoy the show," said Lopez.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.