Large crowds gather to enjoy holiday weekend events

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — “The weather was perfect, it all cooperated, and everything went very smoothly,” Stacey Delorenzo, Champaign County Freedom Celebration organizer, said.

Event organizers couldn’t be happier for a successful firework celebration after they were canceled last year.

After being distant from people for over a year, crowds gathered to celebrate the Fourth of July all over Central Illinois. An organizer at the Champaign County Freedom Celebration said she was surprised by the amount of people who turned up.

“I think it was really great. I think everybody really, really enjoyed it especially this year,” DeLorenzo said.

Last year at this time, people were stuck at home or in small groups to celebrate the Fourth of July. Now, crowds of people gathered to watch parades, fireworks, and more throughout Central Illinois.

“By the time the fireworks actually took place, it was packed. So there were so many people there,” DeLorenzo said.

Over the weekend, holiday events were going on in Sibley, Charleston, Champaign, Effingham and more. People started lining up around U of I well before the firework show Sunday evening. It was the first holiday since Illinois moved into Phase 5 and people were excited to be able to go out and enjoy a sense of normalcy.

“To be able to go out and hang out with friends and see friends, see family, see people around and see a crowd, and just enjoy themselves. I think it was a really wonderful event,” DeLorenzo said.

As a new variant continues to spread throughout the states, health officials are nervous non-vaccinated people may be spreading the virus to their loved ones.

“It’s likely they’ll bring it back to their own communities, to their own friends and neighborhoods, and small towns where the vaccine rate is very low. And that could lead to small isolated outbreaks and clusters of cases, and that can then spread,” Dr. Awais Vaid, CUPHD, said.

Champaign Urbana Public Health District says the vaccine is working to slow down the spread of the virus. They hope no uptick in cases comes from this holiday weekend.

“They all understood that that was like a privilege to come out there and have this,” DeLorenzo said.

Champaign County Freedom Celebration normally has a band, vendors, and more because of Covid they only put on a firework display, but they are staying hopeful for next year.

“We’d really like to put on a great event next year. The whole shebang. The fireworks, the parade, the band, the vendors, all of that kind of stuff,” DeLorenzo said.

Several restaurants and bars in Champaign Urbana said the crowds of people were great for business.

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