New July 4th tradition in Mendota begins with a bang

© 2017-Mendota Reporter

MENDOTA – For the first time in many years, Mendota’s 2017 fireworks show was held in a new setting at Lake Mendota Park. After months of planning, the July 4th show drew a large crowd to the lakeside location and for the Mendota Area Chamber of Commerce, sponsors of the show, this was a move in the right direction.

Taking into account that this was the first time holding the event at the Lake, Chamber executive director Jesse Arellano felt that it went quite well. “Once we decided to make the move, we did a lot of planning and tried to figure out everything that could go wrong so we were prepared for the event,” he explained a few days later.

Chamber board members, Jan Phalen, president; Michelle Wade, 1st vice president; and Ben Zendeli, treasurer, all agreed. Phalen explained that the move to the lake was made because the Chamber simply wanted to try something different and which hopefully would appeal to more people. “This year was a baseline from which to grow,” she commented. “We want to make it the event that everyone says, ‘Hey, we want to go to Mendota’s fireworks display.’”

Wade noted that the Chamber really brainstormed ways to improve Mendota’s July 4th celebration. “We want to make it a nice, community event - that’s what’s important,” she said. “We’re doing the 4th of July anyway, why wouldn’t you make it something Mendota is proud of, that we can provide for the town.”

For the inaugural year, several kids’ activities were held and food vendors included the Mendota Lions Club and Optimist Club with music provided by a DJ. Looking to the future, Zendeli said the Chamber hopes to have more community groups and individuals involved. “We would like to get more organizations from Mendota, more activities, different things going on,” he emphasized. “There’s huge potential, we just have to figure out what direction to go.”

Judging by food sales this year, that is a definite step in the right direction. Phalen laughed when asked if the food vendors were well supported, “Oh my gosh, more than they expected.”

The Lions Club reportedly had to close by 8 p.m. after selling all 600 of their corn dogs and Zendeli said the Optimist Club was also very pleased with sales. “The Optimists had some food left over but I heard nothing but positive feedback from every one of their members,” he noted. “They couldn’t say thank you enough and we can’t say thank you enough to them for taking part.”

Prior to the event, the Chamber acknowledged that some residents were concerned about getting stuck in a traffic jam at the park. However, with help from the Mendota Police Department and a detailed plan for entry and exit, traffic flow was not an issue. “We had everybody out in 15-20 minutes,” Wade said. “The lake and surrounding areas were full but the police department was really good with the traffic flow. Having the many exits working the way they were was key to getting everybody out quickly. I think that was a positive thing.”

Zendeli agreed. “We had four officers at the major intersections directing traffic,” he noted. “Not once did I really see any backup, it was more just a slow flow of cars. Everybody was out in about 15 minutes.”

Additionally, Phalen said it was nice to see so many people and families able to just walk from home to the park. “I think people in the nearby neighborhoods were pretty excited to have it so close,” she said.

As for clean up, Zendeli said most of that was done by the City of Mendota and they reported that this year the area was much cleaner than is usually the case after the fireworks. The Chamber members all expressed their gratitude to the city for allowing the fireworks to be held at the lake, as well as for their help with set up and clean up. “We got so much positive feedback that I think we can only keep growing and capitalizing on that,” Phalen added.

Looking ahead to next year, the Chamber definitely wants to make the event even bigger. “This was just the start of something new and different for us,” Arellano said. “We had lots of volunteers this year and we got input from everybody on what worked well, what didn’t and what should change. It’s too early to say what changes we’ll make but we have lots of suggestions.”

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