Building Community through Festivals

Fireworks are about more than just the explosions

While sitting at the Council meeting last week, listening to Mayor Kaptain explain the rationale behind partnering with Hoffman Estates for fireworks, I was reminded of one of his campaign themes:

Build community, not things.

One of the things I’ve always loved about Elgin is the sense of community. For a town of 108,000, it sure feels like a small town in that people know and look out for each other.

That’s not easy to say these days. More and more, people are isolated from their neighbors, or skeptical of neighbors with good intentions.

So do fireworks build community? And if so, can we build Elgin’s community spirit by having “Elgin” fireworks in Hoffman Estates?

I was relieved to hear that the proposed cost was relatively low – $15,000 was pledged during the meeting, which works out to less than 14 cents per Elginite. (Staff time, including police to direct traffic, has not been calculated yet.)

A community-planned and run event, such as the Jaycees were proposing, would definitely foster community. Volunteers who invest time and effort build relationships with each other, but also expand their community. They reach out through their extended networks to get additional help and to draw people to the festival. News of such events travels via social networks and through word-of-mouth. People are often proud of their contributions and want to share it with others.

While partnering with Hoffman Estates achieves the goal of blowing things up, I hope that the planners engage community groups to really bring Elgin into the event. Because that’s the point of any festival: providing a place for neighbors to come together and celebrate the community they share.

Any of us could go attend another community’s fireworks, but if we’re paying part of the bill, let’s make sure it’s truly an Elgin festival.

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10 responses to “Building Community through Festivals

  1. If the city cannot afford to pick up our garbage or leaves they ought not spend on any frills such as fireworks or dog parks. Let the people that go to the fireworks pay for them with an admission fee. That way, only the people that use the service pay for it.

    • Don’t get me wrong – I’m still not thrilled we’re spending the money. If the Jaycees are willing and able to do it, and people are willing to pay admission, that’s far better, from both economic and community standpoints. But if we’re investing our tax dollars, we’d better get the right bang for the buck and make sure it’s truly an Elgin festival.

  2. Crysta, I completely agree with you that the real/deeper purpose of holding events like fireworks and parades, etc, should be to improve our sense of community. Having a shared July 4th fireworks display in a town other than Elgin will fail to tap into the deeper level of community building. That reason alone is sufficient to abort the partnered fireworks display with Hoffman Estates.

    In hearing the presentation at last week’s council session, it seemed pretty obvious that the Mayor did not want the July 4th fireworks to be held in Elgin because he wants to say he fostered an inter-governmental relationship. For that reason, he said the Sports Complex would be inaccessible, which is true. But he also said fireworks over the Fox River would not be acceptable. Yet the most enjoyable fireworks display I have seen in Elgin in the last 50 years (that includes Wing Park, Spartan Meadows and the Sports Complex) was in fact held over the river, and the audience was in Festival Park.

    It is a shame that the decisions made by our elected officials are all too often based on ulterior motives and personal agendas instead of what is best for our community. Chuck

  3. I wonder how may folks from Elgin will actually get in the car and drive to the Sear’s parking lots for fireworks? Events held in Elgin can attract folks on foot as well as those who need to hop in the car. How many people, for example, attend the parade on the parade on the Fourth by walking there? When we had the 150-year celebration was that when the fireworks were over the river? Lots of foot traffic for that one.

    We have no desire to fight traffic in and out of the Sears Center, much less sit around in a parking lot, for fireworks. At least at the Sports Center kids could run around on grass while waiting (and us SWAN folks could walk to the dead ends of various streets along 20 to see fireworks, too 😉

  4. oops – typed the parade too many times. Silly me.

  5. I agree with the thought that we need to foster community here. If anything, having the fireworks in Hoffman Estates would be detrimental to our community by dividing some people going there and others staying here. We should try to support the jaycees in making this for elgin.

  6. I totally agree with the community celebration of our nation’s independence. That is what we wanted to do here in Elgin. A festival for the community, by the community.
    The $15,000 that the City is sending to Hoffman for the joint festival would have gone a long way.

    Thursday the Jaycees are meeting with the City again to see what a combined festival will look like to to get planning. While it’s not what we had originally envisioned, it’s what is going on.

    That doens’t mean we can’t still have a Family Fun Festival with Fireworks at another time though.
    If it’s something you REALLY want, then get involved and help make it happen. Don’t wait and see. DO.
    Everyone I have talked to over the past year and a half have said they want the fireworks back except for 1 person. When we had our citizen committees we had great ideas and plans.
    When it came to donations and pavement pounding, that’s when people started to pull back. Again, a festival FOR the community BY the community REQUIRES community involvement. That means citizens and businesses. It means volunteers and donations. More so, donations and sponsors.

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