Crowds flock to Veterans Home to find perfect spot to watch fireworks

Fronted by a pair of Old Glories, Private Joe watches over a burst of fireworks Friday at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy. Thousands of people turned out for the fireworks and other Fourth of July activities at the home. (H-W Photo/Phill Carlson)
Posted: Jul. 5, 2014 12:27 am Updated: Jul. 19, 2014 2:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

When the Quincy Fourth of July fireworks display goes off at the Illinois Veterans Home, the Hamanns say they have one of the best spots to watch them.

Their mother, Mary Hamann, lives at the Veterans Home, so they started watching the fireworks outside the Anderson residential building when the displays were first moved there in 2011 in celebration of the Fourth and the home's 125th anniversary.

"This has been our spot every year," Mike Hamann said Friday before the start of this year's fireworks, the third display to be stage at the Veterans Home since 2011.

There were few complaints about the mild temperature as residents flocked to the Veterans Home to find the best spot.

"This is the perfect day," Ron Hamann said. "We've been here before, and it was so hot you couldn't stand it. This is great."

The Hamanns agree that the Veterans Home should host the fireworks every year instead of the riverfront, the traditional site when high water doesn't force a move.

"This is 100 percent better than the riverfront," Mike Hamann said. "There's so much room to spread out and easier to get out of. You're not stepping on everybody."

Veterans Home officials estimated that there were 4,000 to 5,000 people watching the fireworks Friday night. That doesn't include neighboring residents who watched the fireworks from their homes.

Rick Gengenbacher, marketing director at the Veterans Home, said many employees from the facility volunteer to help with the event.

"They want to do this for our residents, and they want to do it for the community," Gengenbacher said. "I know for a lot of the staff that are volunteering tonight, there is a great sense of pride to work here and to open this facility up for the community to see what a treasure this place is."

Hosting the fireworks allows many residents at the Veterans Home to participate in the festivities.

"I think the veterans really appreciate it being out here, too, because they get to see it," said Carolyn Hamann, Mike's wife.

Many Veterans Home residents and their families found spots near their residential buildings.

"It's just like Markword (Infirmary), they can come right out the front door," Mike Hamann said. "They don't have to go far."

Sitting on a blanket with his family, 11-year-old Charles Hall was looking forward to the fireworks display to start as the Quincy Park Band played patriotic music in the background.

"It's just so amazing," the boy said. "The music is also really nice."

His mother, Ann Hall, said the family, which attends the fireworks display every year, almost didn't make it this year.

"We were going to leave town this weekend, but he didn't want to," she said, referring to Charles. "He wanted to come here."