No fireworks graced the sky above Oak Park and River Forest High School on the Fourth of July, but there is a chance that the display could be reset to a future date. Oak Park’s firework contractor has agreed to allow the village to reschedule, according to Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman.
“The contractor, from what I understand, is willing to work with us in case an opportunity arises to reschedule,” Scaman said.
The annual display was canceled following the devastating mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park that left seven dead and dozens wounded. The shooter has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder for the premeditated shooting, to which he has confessed.
Scaman told Wednesday Journal she stands “in solidarity” with the Highland Park community and “those affected by the shooting.”
“That parade was held at the same time as our own. We were having a very joyous time as our partner community was suffering,” she said. “It is with a very heavy heart that I think about that.”
In the wake of such a tragedy, Scaman said many considerations would have to be made before committing to rescheduling. Such considerations include trauma caused by fireworks.
“They do honestly sound like gunfire,” she said.
Deferment of the fireworks is not solely up to the Village of Oak Park. The Fourth of July fireworks display is organized via a three-way partnership involving village government, the high school and the Park District of Oak Park.
At this time, no discussions have taken place between the three taxing entities regarding rescheduling the fireworks. However all the entities are open to the idea.
Jan Arnold, park district executive director, told Wednesday Journal the park district would “definitely” be open to rescheduling the fireworks should a date or reason be determined.
“We always look at opportunities that we can work together in partnership,” Arnold said.
OPRF is likewise interested in rescheduling.
“The district would be happy to work with the village to find a date that might work for a reschedule,” said Karin Sullivan, OPRF spokesperson.
The annual Fourth of July fireworks are launched from the high school’s athletic fields north of Lake Street. Those fields are expected to be reconfigured and remade with synthetic turf replacing natural grass. Whether the high school will host future displays of fireworks once turf is laid is up in the air.
“It’s too early to comment definitively on future plans, but if the fields are turf, fireworks could damage them,” said Sullivan.
This year’s firework display was paid for in large part by an anonymous donor. Scaman was unable to provide the total cost of the fireworks. Nor was she able to share the financial loss the village would incur by not rescheduling. She believes it would likely be the amount of the down payment.
“The amount is palatable that we would lose,” she said. “Certainly nothing that we would value anywhere near above the safety and mental health of our community and the respect and mourning of the crisis in Highland Park.”