You may be aware of recent communications between the Village of Tinley Park and the Tinley Park Park District regarding the 2023 Independence Day events. I would like to explain what this has entailed, especially the Village’s recommendation to host the event in the south lot of the 80th Avenue train station adjacent to Veterans Parkway and Freedom Park.
For many years, the Park District, in partnership with the Village, has hosted an Independence Day celebration on July 4 at McCarthy Park. I have personally been involved with the last 17 years of public safety planning, and each year it poses different challenges. While it’s definitely a beautiful park, the truth is, it’s outgrown the size and scope of the event. Independence Day attracts large crowds, which causes traffic and parking problems. More importantly, it causes safety and security issues, which have been brought up with both the public safety team and the Park District. These issues have become more difficult to address at the current site, which is why we have selected the 80th Avenue train station for the event.
The 80th Avenue station is an ideal location for the Independence Day celebration because its borders are very clear and manageable. It will have fewer points of ingress/egress than McCarthy Park, as well as open sightlines so police can keep a watchful eye on potential threats. In addition, we will use the fire training tower along 183rd Street as a secure launch area for the evening’s fireworks. Parking will also be vastly improved thanks to hundreds of available spaces on location. Better parking options will help to keep traffic from spilling over into subdivisions, which in the past has caused safety issues and parking inconveniences for residents in the surrounding neighborhood. Because of this, the new site also will require fewer Village resources to close streets and manage traffic.
We are living in a much more dangerous world than we were ten years ago. In fact, we came within 15 minutes of canceling the Independence Day celebration at McCarthy Park last year due to a threat of violence. It was the same day as the tragic Highland Park shooting, so we were already on high alert. I personally handled the information flow and coordinated with our public safety team and the Park District. We coordinated with county, state and federal agencies to validate and react to the threat. Since that day, many shootings and acts of violence have happened and serve as a stark reminder of the importance of safety at public events. Most people that day didn’t see the bomb officers and dogs searching the area for hours prior to the event or going door to door inspecting buildings on the perimeter. Our public safety teams are recognized experts in the field of event safety and security. Every year we coordinate with the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Department of Homeland Security and Illinois State Police, along with regional public safety partners, to plan for our events that bring in over a million visitors to our Village.
Moving an event of this magnitude for safety and traffic reasons isn’t a new idea. Just last year, we moved the Tinley Park Block Party from a sprawling event held all along Oak Park Avenue to a more contained area within the Oak Park Avenue train station and Zabrocki Plaza. Traffic was less impacted, and police were able to more easily monitor the area. While many residents and businesses were initially unsure about this change, we received many positive comments that it was a better event.
Our newest addition to our public safety command staff is Deputy Police Chief Thomas Tilton, a former Secret Service agent. Deputy Chief Tilton joined the Village in 2021 and has led our public safety event planning. He has protected two U.S. Presidents and has been an invaluable asset to us in our efforts to bolster safety during our events. Along with a desire to protect the public with a safety-first philosophy, Deputy Chief Tilton also brought a lifetime’s worth of experience and knowledge with him to Tinley Park. He has maintained his relationships with various state, county and federal agencies which only enhance our resources to protect our residents.
The Village has reached out to the Park District asking to work together. We have even offered to host the event on July 4 together, and with every attempt to work with the Park District, they have declined. The Village has and always will collaborate with the Park District on any events that use public property. We’re expecting them to submit their permit in the near future for the Stars and Stripes 5k, a wonderful event that I’m sure the community will love. I’m also sure their Running ‘O the Green 8k race, featuring a new route, will be fantastic now that they’ve selected a date that no longer conflicts with the Tinley Park Irish Parade on March 5.
As of now, the Village is planning on holding the Independence Day celebration at 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 3 at the 80th Avenue train station, 18001 S. 80th Ave., Tinley Park. The event will be a community celebration featuring live music, food and beverages, and fireworks at dusk. Keep in mind, however, that the event is still five months out, and details are still in the planning stages.