"Thunder on the Illinois"

Image courtesy of the Putnam County Record
A preview of Hennepin's 4th of July Celebration

This village along the river may be small, but it has a reputation for being the place to be on July 4. This year’s celebration promises to be bigger and better than ever and to drive home the point, the village has named the event “Thunder on the Illinois.”

“Front Street is 100 feet above the river, so the fireworks are basically eye level. Spectators get to experience the echoing, flashes and constant streaming of the fireworks,” said Teresa Clausen, a member of the Hennepin Village Board.

“In Hennepin, you feel the fireworks as much as see them. They’re the best fireworks you’ll ever see in the area,” said Quentin Buffington, a village board member.

After every Fourth of July celebration, the committee of 12 who are responsible for the celebration take a well-deserved month off. Then, every September sees the beginning of the planning for next year’s festivities.

“We’re always looking to see what we can do to enhance it and make it better; there’s always something we want to add, and every year it gets bigger,” said Buffington, who has been on the planning committee for 20 years.

“Thunder on the Illinois” is Hennepin’s 39th celebration of the Fourth of July, and it will include many events during the day which will culminate with a fireworks display over the Illinois River at 9:30 p.m. with a finale sponsored by Marquis Energy. The schedule of events will include:

• The day starts 7:30 a.m. with the “Movin’ for Music” 5K run/walk sponsored by the Putnam County Music Boosters, followed by a pancake and sausage breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. at the Hennepin pool.

• The 12th annual cruise-in will be from noon to 4 p.m. at Bassi Park. Last year’s show included more than 100 cars. Registration begins at 10 a.m., and the entry fee is $5. The first 25 entries will receive free 50/50 tickets (last year’s winner won $1,650), and all entrants will receive dash plaques. The show is rain or shine, and there will be several different award categories. Music will be provided by DJs featuring ‘50’s and ‘60’s music, and there will also be various vendors, activities, door prizes and a “Wheels Through Time” display of vintage bicycles, pedal cars and more.

• Water fights for children with the Hennepin Fire and Rescue Department, along with inflatables and “Shoot the Red Star” will begin at 12:30 p.m. at Boyle park.

• The bags tournament will begin registration at 11:30 a.m..

• A golf cart parade.

• The PC Community Center will sponsor Bingo from 2 to 4 p.m. in the shelter.

• Several food vendors will be set up in the park, including the Putnam County FFA alumni serving pork chop dinners in support of their scholarship fund.

• The Putnam County Historical Society will present a dramatic presentation of “Soldier Come Home” at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at the courthouse. Admission is free.

• Musical entertainment this year includes “Simply Patsy,” a tribute to Patsy Cline by Mary Pfeifer at 5:30 p.m. followed by the band “Snapshot” from 8 p.m. to midnight on the courthouse steps.

With the day’s expected attendance to be up to 5,000 people, the population of Hennepin will likely explode to more than six times its normal size.

“People from all over the area come to Hennepin, and families come home from out of state. It’s a good, relaxing day; everything is within a few blocks. When you see the fireworks exploding over the river and reflecting off of the water ... to me, that’s America. That’s perfect,” said Buffington.

Source: Putnam County Record