South Jacksonville Celebration to Possibly Return With Some Changes

By Benjamin Cox on March 25, 2024 at 3:26pm

The South Jacksonville Village Board of Trustees appear poised to bring back the South Jacksonville Celebration with a few changes.

The board came to a consensus on Thursday to move the event forward this year despite major concerns surrounding security and costs. The security risks are a hold over from the previous year when multiple physical altercations broke out in multiple locations last year on the Prairieland Heritage Museum grounds, which led to the event having to prematurely end due to policing concerns.

South Jacksonville Chief of Police Eric Hansell says those concerns still remain due to a lack of security staffing. Questions about the security for the event were further heightened after the mass shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade on February 14th.

Costs around food for students, costs for port-a-potties, and costs and the number of staff were other hold ups by the board. With time drawing near, June Connor of Connor Family Amusements appeared at the meeting on Thursday and proposed that the board not make the event free, but add a $5 admission with armbands: “I understand there may be some safety issues that you all have talked about. Well, we worry about safety all the time – safety for the participants, safety for our employees, just safety in general as the State of Illinois wants us to be. One thing that has come out in my mind, when you have something free, it kind of makes things uncontrollable.”

The Board of Trustees decided that rather than charge for admission, the event will no longer have evening hours this year. Village President Dick Samples says that the consensus also decided on a few other parameters to limit any possibility of a repeat of last year’s problems: “I think one thing we are going to do is that their will be no admittance unless you have a parent or guardian or something there. We really want to get away with what happened last year. That was our fault. It wasn’t the fault of the carnival at all. It was our fault because we opened it up to the public, and the public didn’t do us right. It will be daytime hours only. There will be nothing in the night time. They are going to run possibly 11AM-6PM and then shut it off for the night.”

Samples says that the cooperation with Four Rivers and Garrison School also appears to remain on the table, despite some concerns about costs.

The event is all contingent upon a contract approval between the village and the Prairieland Heritage Museum’s Board of Trustees. If both boards can’t approve the contract, the event will not occur.

The dates for the celebration, along with the parameters of admission, the number of rides and food trucks, and the cost of the event are set to be finalized by the board at their upcoming business meeting on April 4th.