The four essentials of the Fourth

Spectators watch fireworks explode over the East River and the Triborough Bridge in this view from Astoria Park during an early Fourth of July celebration in the Queens Borough of New York, Friday, June 29, 2007. Daniel P. Derella, The Associated Press

By Brittany Abeijon


The Champaign County Freedom Celebration Committee met with officials from the Champaign Park District and Parkland College to discuss an alternate site for this year’s fireworks and evening show, which was displaced due to campus utility construction.

Due to public safety concerns, Dodds Park on the Parkland campus was the most suitable and accessible location. There is also ample parking, which alleviates concerns often found with large community events.

“We certainly expect logistical challenges, but our volunteer committee members have worked very hard to ensure that everyone has a great time in a safe environment,” McArthur said. “We have support from all of the law enforcement entities in the area, including Champaign, Urbana, U of I, Parkland and, for the first time, Champaign County Sheriff’s Office.”

The fireworks display is once again coordinated by the internationally-acclaimed Melrose Pyrotechnics.

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“We want people to know that they won an international championship for fireworks displays last year,” Wauthier said. “We have them doing our fireworks and we are very pleased.”

Melrose Pyrotechnics has had a contract with the Freedom Celebration Board for a number of years and public feedback and has been consistently complimentary.

“Due to the change in venue for the evening program, it is difficult to anticipate the change in crowd turnout,” McArthur said. “We hope that the residents will come out and celebrate our nation’s independence and pay a well-deserved tribute to our business community.”


Don Wauthier, the general chair and volunteer in the Freedom Celebration Committee has participated in creating a list of patriotic, athletic and relaxing activities planned for Fourth of July, 2007.

The committee calls it the Champaign County Freedom Celebration and it begins at 9:30 a.m. with race registration at Assembly Hall. The youth run around Assembly Hall will start at 10:30 a.m. and the 5K race/walk will begin at 11:05 a.m. The course for the 5K race/walk begins on the east side of Assembly Hall taking participants north on Fourth Street and east on Florida Avenue, before they reverse course and head back to Assembly Hall.

“We are expecting several hundred participants for the 5K,” Wauthier said.

The parade begins at 1:05 p.m. with long-time business owner and local developer, George Shapland as this year’s Grand Marshal. The theme for the parade is “America Salutes Free Enterprise” and is a tribute to local Champaign businesses that have made Champaign County’s economy what it is today.

Cathy McArthur, the president of the Champaign County Freedom Celebration Board, included a variety of floats in this year’s parade.

“Of the 96 entries thus far, one is dedicated to the Chicago Cubs and another to the St. Louis Cardinals,” McArthur said. “Fortunately, they’re not right by each other.”

Among the various community groups and veterans in the parade there are also five marching bands from area high schools participating.

In addition to the 5K run and the parade, there is an evening program lined up featuring the Tons O’ Fun band kicking things off at 7 p.m. There will be a number of food vendors and inflatable children’s play areas. The fireworks display will start at approximately 9:15 p.m.

“The importance of all of these activities is to provide something for each member of the family.” McArthur said.

In addition to the children’s activities, we have a special viewing tent designated especially for senior citizens to enjoy complimentary refreshments and view the parade.

Both Wauthier and McArthur agree that these events are a necessary part of the Fourth of July.

“Champaign-Urbana Freedom Celebration Committee believes that events for the day celebrate our freedom, democracy and the birthday of the nation,” Wauthier said.


Local Champaign business manager Alan Stout enlisted in the U.S. Marines Corps at age 17 and served four years, from 1993 until 1997. Stout served overseas in both South Korea and Bosnia, and has a long history of Marines in his family coupled with a very strong idea of freedom.

“When you look at someone who served your country, that is freedom,” Stout said. “They are freedom, they sacrificed something for you.”

Stout said something in him changed when he served overseas, in foreign territory, on foreign soil.

“Being there in those third-world countries and seeing the poverty and the way the different governments are ran, makes you appreciate what you left behind in the United States,” Stout said.

Stout said Americans should celebrate the Fourth of July and remember the fallen people who have fought for their freedom and country.

“The Fourth of July has a very special meaning to me,” Stout said. “I personally contributed.”

The tragic loss of an uncle who died while stationed in Vietnam prepared Stout for the Marines.

“I knew what I was doing, I knew what sacrifices I might have to make,” Stout said.

Stout experienced another personal loss when his long-time high school friend was killed in Bosnia, at the age of 19.

“Although people in the military sometimes have a difficult time talking about it, the Fourth is our celebration of independence,” Stout said. “We are the few, the proud.”


Some couldn’t imagine the Fourth of July without some seasonally appropriate and traditional American food, but others know the tricks and tips of barbeque to make sure the meat isn’t red, white … or blue, but cooked through and through.

“There’s nothing like a fiery grill to make a summer afternoon even hotter,” said Phil Wilson, former University student. “And what man doesn’t like playing with fire?”

While men are gaining kitchen confidence setting hot dogs, burgers and brats ablaze, they have to remember some safety tips as well.

“Don’t put too much lighter fluid on, or you will just have fire and no works,” Wilson said. “You must be careful when squirting lighter fluid onto an open flame because it can easily flash back along the fluid’s path to the container in your hands.”

In case of a barbeque fire, either turn off the burners or close the lid. It is extremely important to remember to never attempt to extinguish a grease fire with water, according to the New York City Fire Department.

“Another precaution to take is keeping alcoholic beverages clear of the barbeque,” Wilson said.

“But it’s only American tradition to have a few original hot dogs washed down with a few Pabst Blue Ribbons on the fourth,” Wilson said. “That tradition seems to have been around forever.”

Barbecuing is loved by Americans in particular – 3 out of 4 American households own a grill, according to the Barbeque Industry Association.

So whether it’s charcoal or gas, dogs or brats, Miller or Bud this Fourth of July, take precaution when preparing, cooking and cleaning your food and your grill.

Wilson offered some words.

“Give a man a barbeque, feed him for a day. Teach a man to barbeque and feed him for the summer,” he said.