America is a nation of immigrants, so it’s only natural that the man behind Rockford’s Fourth of July celebration comes from an immigrant family himself.
‘Mr. Fourth of July’, Joe Marino, says that, after putting on the show for decades, his passion for this country, even at a young age, is what prompted him to start handling the fireworks show in the first place.
“Fifty-five years I’ve been involved,” Marino said. “Started when I was twelve,” he jokes.
A lot has changed since Marino first organized Rockford’s fireworks celebration in 1963.
“Our fireworks budget then was $1,200,” he remembers.
Marino gets the job done every year with the help of a ten-person committee.
“The parade and the preparation for the fireworks show, they do an awful lot of work. I mean, I get a lot of credit, but they do all the work,” he said.
This year’s fireworks will be launched from the same South Madison Street location as previous years, by a crew of fireworks experts.
“It takes ’em two days to set up that show,” he said. “All synchronized to a sound track of music and hand-wired. All computerized. It’s quite an event.”
Rockford’s display includes a three-minute finale that Marino and his committee originated 18 years ago.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the commitment, by the community, to fund the celebration, which is paid for strictly be voluntary donation. No city taxes are used.
Marino says he wants Rockford residents to be especially proud of the Forest City on the Fourth.
“The celebration is more than fireworks and parades,” Marino said. “This is the greatest country. My immigrant parents came here to seek a better life for themselves, along with millions of other immigrants. You can’t forget that. We owe this to our country.”
While no tax dollars are used, Marino pointed out that the City does provide support services with the police and fire departments to keep attendees safe.