Fireworks just hours away

Christina Smith and DeWayne Bartels

Peorians looking for local Fourth of July entertainment only have to drive as far as the Peoria Riverfront or East Peoria’s RiverFront Park.

Methodist Red, White and Boom, a joint venture between the city of East Peoria, Peoria and JMP Radio in Peoria, will start shooting off fireworks around 9:30 p.m. Friday.

Pre-firework show actitivies begin at 5 p.m.

Early blast

But, Peorians do not have to wait until the Fourth to get in some fireworks time.

The Peoria Park District will present its annual Fireworks Spectacular at Glen Oak Park tomorrow. 

The day offers a line-up of entertainment. 

The amphitheater gates open at 4 p.m., and the flag is raised at 4:15 p.m. by the Peoria Central ROTC.

At 4:30 p.m., Molly Smith, the Peoria Park District Hometown Idol, will perform, followed by the Great Expectations Show Chorus Community Children’s Theatre. 

A special performance by Jammsammich is scheduled from 6-7:30 p.m.

The entertainment concludes with the Peoria Municipal Band at 8 p.m. and the big fireworks finale at dark. Attendees may bring a picnic dinner or purchase food at the event.

CityLink will shuttle people from Evergreen Square to the park. Cost for the bus trip is $1 per person or $3 per family. There is no cost to attend the event, co-sponsored by the Peoria Times-Observer. 

For additional details, call 688-3667.                                    

The Fourth of July

As usual, the fireworks on the Peoria riverfront will be synchronized to music and played on all six JMP Radio Group stations.

This year, about $77,000 of fireworks will be set off from a barge in the middle of the Illinois River Jill Peterson, public relations coordinator for the City of East Peoria, said.

Mike Wild, vice-president of JMP Radio, said the fireworks show is going to be much bigger as well.

“This year’s show will be bigger, better and more intense,” Wild said during a May 7 press conference.

“It will be an astronomical difference in what you see shot in the air,” Wild said of this year’s show.

At this level of expenditure, Wild said, the Peoria/East Peoria show puts it in the top 2 percent of fireworks displays in the nation.

“We have a vision to build it even more ... We want a jaw-dropping event,” Wild said.

“This is a wonderful platform on which to build,” Wild added.

Peoria activities

As part of the fireworks festivities, rock band Cheap Trick and Omega Battalion will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Peoria Riverfront.

Country music group Diamond Rio and Tin Horse will also perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Peoria Riverfront. Tickets for both concerts are available at the door for $30.

Members of the Air National Guard will be present in Peoria with their tactical forces display and Family Readiness Team. Guard members will shoot off T-shirts and squeeze balls with an air cannon.

The U.S. Marine Corps will also have a display of weapons and vehicles in Peoria.

Visitors and residents can also stop by and sign a Christmas card for soldiers fighting overseas. The Central Illinois Proud Families of Marines members will promote its Operation Santa program.

CityLink buses will shuttle people from Evergreen Shopping Center on Sheridan and Lake Avenue to downtown Peoria every 20 minutes. The shuttle starts at 5 p.m. and costs $1 per person or $3 per family. 

Food vendors and other activities begin in Peoria at 5 p.m.

A Guitar Hero contest will be hosted by 102.3 Max FM from 5 to 8 p.m. at Festival Park in Peoria.

From 6 to 9 p.m. at Liberty Park in Peoria, 104.9 the Wolf will present “Just Kickin.”

The National Anthem will be performed by “The Quarter Notes,” a group of young Peoria girls who recently performed for President Bush at the White House.

Updated information will be listed on all six JMP Radio Group stations: 1470 WMBD, Lite Rock 107, 93.3 the Drive, 104.9 The Wolf, Max FM and Classic Country 1290 WIRL.

RiverFront Park events

Peterson said the park in East Peoria will open at 5 p.m. with inflatable games by Fun on the Run and balloon creations by Starr clown until 8 p.m.

Bubblegum Jack will perform from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., followed by a 7 to 8 p.m. performance by 2Mass Denial.

Vertucci’s Chicago Style Eats, one of several vendors selling food at the park, will host a “Big Dog Challenge” from 8 to 9 p.m., based off the annual hot dog-eating contest at Nathan’s in Coney Island, N.Y., every Fourth of July.

Todd Rawls, a co-owner of Vertucci’s, said the idea behind the hot dog-eating contest is to provide family entertainment and raise money for charities.

“Anyone interested in participating in the ‘Big Dog Challenge’ must stop by the restaurant, sign a waiver and show us how many hot dogs he or she can eat in nine minutes,” Rawls said. “We don’t want someone who can only eat about three, or less than three hot dogs, in the contest.”

Rawls said someone who can eat nine to 12 hot dogs within the time limit could have a chance to win the prize of $1,000.

Besides the Big Dog challenge, Rawls said there will be a “Big Dog Celebrity Challenge,” with Eric Shangraw from Channel 25 WEEK, Kurt Pegler from channel 31 WMBD, Phil Luciano from the Peoria Journal Star and Ian Schwartz from Channel 19 WHOI, competing for the chance to win $1,000 for the charity of his choice.

Rawls said the event helps give his store more exposure and provides a fun event for the community.

“The winners also receive the title of Vertucci’s Top Dog for one year,” Rawls said. “We want it to be an annual event.”

“Families and individuals can bring canopys with them, but we ask that all canopies are removed by 9 p.m. so everyone can see the fireworks,” Peterson said.

Peterson said a fireworks pre-show, which includes Miss Festival of Lights Queen Alyssa Lewellen leading in the Pledge of Allegiance, will run from 9 to 9:30 p.m.

To help with traffic issues after the fireworks show, Peterson said families can stay to listen to 2Mass Denial perform from 10 to 10:45 p.m., while people clear out of the park.

“We know there will be parking issues and ask that people keep a sense of humor and be patient,” Peterson said.

A map showing how traffic will exit the park is available on the city’s Web site, www.cityofeastpeoria.com, along with directions on how people will be able to leave the park.

Diana Anderson, director of marketing and sales for Embassy Suites, said there are just a few rooms left for July 4.

“I can tell you that of the 226 rooms in the hotel, we have sold more than 200 of them for July Fourth,” Anderson said. “We are also close to being full for Saturday.”

Anderson said customers staying at the hotel July Fourth can watch the fireworks from behind the hotel.

“You have to be a guest July Fourth to be on our property,” Anderson said.

Benefits for all

During a press conference May 7, Peoria mayor Jim Ardis and East Peoria mayor Dave Mingus both spoke of the cooperation between the two cities.

“This event has a great history,” Mingus said. “It’s great for us to be involved.”

“Peoria is proud to play its part in this event,” Ardis said.

Brent Lonteen, president of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said the event could draw as many as 200,000 people from as far as 60 miles away.

“This event, to me, is much more than a fireworks show,” Lonteen said.

 “It’s symbolic of individual municipalities coming together,” Lonteen said. “We have to be that way to attract visitors. We have to work that way or we’re dead.”