On a perfect evening in western Illinois, a large crowd watched as the nation's independence was celebrated Saturday with fireworks that turned the sky over Aledo into a kaleidoscope of colors.
Justine Stratton and Tucker Dietz of Sherrard, along with three children and another on the way, made themselves comfortable in the bed of their pickup. The couple used citronella torches in an attempt to keep away mosquitos and flies.
Stratton and Dietz, like a number of other people, also attended Friday's fireworks show in Matherville. While they said they enjoyed the fireworks in Matherville, Stratton said the July 4 extravaganza in Aledo was "more family oriented."
Sponsored by the Aledo Fire Department and the City of Aledo, Saturday's show has been a tradition for many years. Aledo Fire Chief Dennis Litwiler said the department has been a sponsor since before he joined the force 37 years ago.
Litwiler said the $8,000 budgeted made for a great show. He said the amount spent on the Independence Day fireworks has grown a bit over the years but is about where it should be.
"We think we've got a really good show for the money we spend," Litwiler said. "We probably in the (spending) ballpark we want to be in."
Not only is the AFD a co-sponsor, the department is in charge of sending the fireworks into the sky over the city.
"We've actually got three licensed pyrotechnicians," Litwiler said.
Jason Gross, Taylor Weig, Chloe Weig and Lexi Becker of rural Aledo said they like to watch from the Apollo baseball diamond area. The rockets are launched from the nearby Mercer County Fairgrounds.
"It's easier to get out," Gross said, "a lot less traffic."
Andrea Parker, who attended with Melinda Mazzocco, three children and Zoe, a poodle/wiener dog mix, said they've watched from the Apollo area the past three or four years.
"This is convenient," Parker said. "It seems like it's an easy place to park and see what's going on."