ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — It takes a village to pull off Rockford’s Fourth of July celebration every year, and there is a lot of work to be done before the fireworks are shot off into the sky.
It is all thanks to a big group of volunteers.
“I did say four, but logistically my mind started turning,” said on volunteer.
It was crunch time with five days to go to the Fourth of July. Volunteers met up at Gerry’s Pizza, 7403 Argus Dr., to plan the last details of Rockford’s Fourth of July celebration.
“We’ve got a good group of people, Joe Marino was the founder,” said volunteer Tom Olsen.
This year’s group continued the tradition that was started nearly 60 years ago by Marino.
“We just wanna make it great and good every year from now on,” Olsen said.
Marino, also known as “Mr. Fourth of July,” created the Rockford Fourth of July Civic Committee, which put on Rockford’s first downtown fireworks show in 1963. The committee is now run by Olsen and Ted O’Donnell, Marino’s family.
“As Uncle Joe used to say, ‘just sucker them for a year and see what happens to get them to get on board,'” O’Donnell said. “And that’s kinda what happened to Tom and I.”
Fifty to seventy-five volunteers donated their time on a day many consider a holiday to make sure that others have a safe and happy celebration. For this group, it was all about a sense of community and to be a part of something bigger.
“We just love getting the community together and providing a great opportunity for people to celebrate and just enjoy the beauty that is Downtown Rockford,” said volunteer Andrew Belvins.
“The fireworks, Davis Park downtown has always been something that my family and I enjoyed,” added Kristin Boel, secretary for the 4th and Lights Committee. “So, being able to actually be a part of the behind the scenes of it has really done me well.”
“I really like giving back to the community that has given me so much,” said volunteer Aubrey Baker-Clark. “I’m from Rockford, so its just nice to be part of the things that I was part of growing up and give that back to the next generation.”
Residents can spot the volunteers by their matching t-shirts. They answer questions, direct traffic and help out with the parade. At the end of the night, spectators and volunteers alike turn their eyes to the spectacle in the sky.
“It’s all bringing people together, even if it’s just for 30 minutes to look at the sky. Everybody’s looking at the sky, for 30 minutes as one,” O’Donnell said. “There’s nothing separating anyone or being separating anybody, it’s a wonderful moment and that’s why Tom and I continue to do this.”