The Wheaton Park District has planned so many events for its Independence Day celebration this year, the festivities will begin a day earlier.
Starting at 6 p.m. July 3, Wheaton’s will open for old-fashioned fun with picnicking and people watching. Carnival rides, including a giant slide, kiddie Ferris wheel and inflatable obstacle course, will be set up in the park. Classic arcade games, such as the duck pond, boom blaster and running races, will be available. DJ Gabe will be on deck to play classic rock, pop and a patriotic song or two to keep toes tapping.
Residents are invited to pack a picnic meal or buy something tasty at the park. Genoa Italian Concessions will be serving Italian sausage, pizza and homemade chips. And for dessert, there will be elephant ears.
“We want families to come out, set up a blanket and enjoy the evening,” said Dan Novak, superintendent of special facilities for the Wheaton Park District. “The fireworks will definitely top off the evening with a bang.”
Adjacent to the DuPage County Fairgrounds, Graf Park is a great location for viewing the fireworks. This year’s fireworks will explode with nearly 25 minutes of color and sound arranged by the internationally award-winning, Melrose Pyrotechnics. Wheaton North graduate Micah Tryba will start the fireworks show by singing the national anthem at approximately 8:45 p.m.
In recognition of this year’s theme, The Fabric of America, Wheaton Park District will also offer families an opportunity to contribute to the Tile Wall Project, a visual quilt being designed by residents for permanent display at the Community Center.
Wheaton’s parade steps off at 10 a.m. on the Fourth of July. The parade is a long-standing tradition for the city and is noted as one of the oldest and largest in the state. Whole families come out early to set up blankets and chairs on the well-known route along Main Street. Margie Wilhelmi, marketing director for the Wheaton Park District said, "The Fourth falls on a Monday this year, so we’re returning to the traditional start time, which is nice because people can enjoy the parade in the morning and still have plenty of time for family picnics.”
Another Wheaton parade tradition is honoring a local citizen as parade grand marshal. Jane Hodgkinson, retiring executive director of the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, has been named this year grand marshal. Hodgkinson has been recognized for decades of service in DuPage as an advocate for families with special needs.
With the sponsorship of Jerry Haggerty Chevrolet, Community Bank and the DuPage Republicans, more than 80 parade entries including bands, clowns, politicians and floats will entertain a crowd expected to number in the tens of thousands.
“I’ll never forget the way the crowd responded to the Battalion of Military Uniforms from past to present, as they marched past last year,” Novak said. “Standing ‘O.’ Kids, parents, everyone just spontaneously stood up. What a great memory.”