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Crowds Pack Navy Pier For Fireworks; Others Opting For Suburbs

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Fireworks erupt over Navy Pier on Monday night, July 4. (CBS)

Fireworks erupt over Navy Pier on Monday night, July 4. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – With Americans across the nation pausing to mark the nation’s birthday on Monday, many people in the Chicago area were taking their Independence Day celebrations to the suburbs, as the city has scaled back its own Fourth of July festivities.

As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, for the first time in years, there were no Taste of Chicago festivities in Grant Park on July 4th, as the festival closed down a day before, Sunday evening.

And there was no city-sponsored fireworks show this year, with the only official fireworks display in Chicago being the Navy Pier fireworks show sponsored by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

It was the second major change in as many years for the city’s Fourth of July celebrations. Last year, the city cancelled its traditional July 3rd fireworks show, opting instead for three smaller fireworks shows along the lakefront, including at Navy Pier.

But this year, the city dropped all of its official fireworks displays, leaving only the Navy Pier show at 9 p.m. on Monday.

John Cronin was at Navy Pier with his family on Monday, showing his patriotism on his shirt and on his broken foot; sporting a U.S. flag t-shirt and a cast painted in the stars and stripes.

“I’m a Marine and I love the United States and, actually, the daughters thought it would look good and I said it was a great idea,” Cronin said.

He made the trip with his family from Johnsburg in the far northwestern suburbs, to spend the Fourth of July in downtown Chicago. They definitely weren’t alone.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports

Visitors to Navy Pier on Monday came from as far away as Alabama.

“It’s a blast. We had fun. There’s a lot of people, everybody’s out having a good time,” said Magon Tomasiewicz, who was in Chicago with her husband, mother-in-law and 1-year-old son, Drake.

Navy Pier is already the state’s largest tourist attraction and many people roaming the pier Monday afternoon planned to stick around for the fireworks.

But it wasn’t the only Chicago draw for Independence Day.

Millennium Park was packed, too. From the regular crowds at the Bean, to the Family Fun Festival along the park’s Chase Promenade.

Jennifer Strauel, a visitor from Chicago said spending the holiday in Chicago rated a “9” on a scale of 1 to 10.

Families from all over the U.S. could be found walking through the city. Police were also in plain sight all around downtown, preparing for big crowds.

The only event not in full swing on Monday was the Taste of Chicago, which closed Sunday night, rather than staying open through July 4th as usual.

Robert Morehead didn’t care; he was just taking it all in.

“Being an American in Chicago is very great. I love the city and the shirt explains it all,” he said, donning a “Proud To Be An American” t-shirt.

But with the city scaling back its July 4th festivities, many other people in the Chicago area were opting to celebrate the nation’s birthday in the suburbs.

As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, the Butler family was camping out along the lakefront in Evanston on Monday for a picnic complete with barbecue ribs and watermelon. It’s been a family tradition for them for about 50 years.

Evanston’s fireworks celebration typically draws 20,000 to 30,000 people, but with Chicago scaling back its own plans, officials were bracing for larger crowds in Evanston. Just how much larger was anyone’s guess.

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