Some like switch from riverfront to Veterans Home for Fourth of July fireworks

Thousands of people gathered at the Illinois Veterans Home to watch Thursday night's fireworks display. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Jul. 4, 2013 11:25 pm Updated: Jul. 19, 2013 12:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Melissa Wiley didn't miss spending the Fourth of July on Quincy's riverfront.

Because of the rising Mississippi River, the Independence Day festivities were relocated to the Illinois Veterans Home. The city moved the fireworks display to the home two years ago when it celebrated its 125th anniversary.

Wiley, a 27-year-old Quincy native, said the river did have benefits like watching the sunset or seeing how the dark waters of the Mississippi mirrored the spectacle of colorful fireworks in the sky. However, she didn't like the cramped environment.

"There's a lot more space here. You're not packed like sardines like you were at Clat Adams (Park along the riverfront). It was a madhouse down there," Wiley said.

Wiley enjoyed the 210 acres of land at the Illinois Veterans Home. It allowed people to enjoy their independence in their own style.

Some people enjoyed a bite to eat from County Market under the canopies, while kids played a game of football. Both natives and newcomers to Quincy congregated around the Quincy Park District stage to listen to the Quincy Community Band play patriotic hits, as well as the reading of the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence.

Tom Lockett worked as an electrician in a submarine for the Navy for 16 years. His father-in-law, Maurice Harlan, is a Vietnam veteran who just recently moved into the home. Lockett enjoys sharing the Fourth of July experience with Harlan and believes that relocating the festivities was a move that kept the veterans in mind.

"Some of us (veterans) can get around, but others can't, so it's good to have it here so they can see it ," Lockett said. "If it wasn't for veterans, we wouldn't have an Independence Day."

Dwain Preston, a Vietnam veteran, believes the relocation created less frustration, because the Veterans Home offers opportunities to park closer to the event. It also simplified the setup process people had to go through to enjoy the festivities.

"At the riverfront, you had to hunt for a parking spot, climb down the hill, scavenge for a place at Clat Adams and then climb back up the hill to get back to the car. It's an easier experience here," Preston said.

Another perk was having enough room for people to strategically plant themselves to get a good view of the fireworks. Wiley and her friends laid down their red, white and blue quilts in a place where they could see the fireworks display being set up.

She was happy to share the experience with her two godsons as they laughed and screamed from the booms and crackles. She says it's an experience she will always treasure as a native of Quinc,y because she believes there is nothing more patriotic than celebrating Independence Day at the home.

"What a better place to be than with the people who made this country free," Wiley said. "Now, the veterans can enjoy their time, too."