Mahomet Freedom Fest

One of many people who arrived early and staked out places to watch the fireworks later relaxes at Lake of the Woods on July 4, 2019, during Freedom Fest in Mahomet.

MAHOMET — Champaign County Forest Preserve District officials said Tuesday that the ongoing threat of COVID-19 has caused the cancellation of this year’s July 4th Freedom Fest fireworks display, held annually at Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve.

“The continuing uncertainty of the pandemic and concern for the health and safety of participants made it the right decision, albeit a very difficult one,” Mary Ellen Wuellner, CCFPD executive director, said in a press release. “We look forward to the day when we will be able to safely come together for these fun community celebrations.”

Uncertainty around Illinois’ timeline to allow large public gatherings contributed to the decision, officials said, as did the inability to secure sufficient volunteer assistance to carry out the large event given the COVID-19 safety concerns.

“It is challenging to secure a sufficient number of volunteers to work the entry gates and handle parking responsibilities in the best of years. In 2020, that task would be nearly impossible,” Wuellner noted.

The group plans to resume the fireworks show in 2021.

Also, in light of the COVID-19 situation, pedal boats will remain in dry dock for this summer at Lake of the Woods. This decision was made out of safety concerns as well as financial constraints on seasonal hiring caused by the pandemic, officials said.

However, a grant-funded construction project, which will improve the preserve’s “peninsula” location off Lake of the Woods Road, can proceed unimpeded this summer. When completed next year, visitors to Lake of the Woods Preserve will find a new accessible boat launch, a large new open-air shelter, and a paved walking path from the gate to the water.

The Friends Foundation continues to raise match dollars in support of the grant. Those interested in supporting the project should contact hq@ccfpd.org.