Editor’s Update: Updated to reflect 2017 information.
Fourth of July celebrations don’t get more patriotic or bigger in Lake County than at the Naval Station Great Lakes July 4th Celebration.
For two consecutive days, on July 3rd and 4th, Naval Station Great Lakes will hold a spectacular and FREE birthday party for the good, ole United States of America. This grand festival is complete with live music, a carnival, roving entertainment, a family entertainment stage, crafts and activities for kids, a STEM SeaPerch station, bingo, paintball, target shoot for kids, indoor rock wall climbing, Naval History and Heritage Exhibits, food vendors, and of course, fireworks.
Attending a celebration this big and bold requires some insider advice, and thanks to a little research and some reader tips, Little Lake County will help to put you in the know–before you go.
Getting There and Getting In
Insider tip: If you are driving, the address to type into your GPS is 601 D Street, Great Lakes, 60088. Gate 3 is designated for the general public. All drivers entering to park at Gate 3 must show a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. Vehicles are also subject to search.
***NEW FOR 2017*** Gate 3 (gate for general public) will close at approximately 8pm for inbound traffic so that everyone can get through security and get to the field before the fireworks. Make sure to come early!
Insider tip: Little Lake County reader Tamara F. suggests taking the train to the festival, even if it means driving to the train station located one stop before or after the Naval Base. The Metra Union Pacific North Line serves Naval Base Great Lakes, and train schedules can be found at the Metra website. Be sure to check for the weekend/holiday train schedule for trains on July 3rd and 4th. Taking the train saves time at the end of your visit, especially when leaving after the fireworks show, and the Metra station is located right across the street from Gate 3.
Once you have arrived, all adults 18 years and older must show a valid ID to enter the celebration. All attendees subject to random vehicle search and lines can be long. Be prepared for a wait. Event parking and entrance is free to the public. Gates open at 2:30 p.m. both days.
What to Bring
Insider tip: Little Lake County reader Nikki K. suggests bringing a wagon to haul your family’s belongings (and younger children) across the expanse of Ross Field, and to and from transportation. Families may bring blankets, lawn chairs, strollers, baby-related items, service animals and cameras into the celebration. Items that are NOT allowed include fireworks, weapons, grills, coolers, large bags or backpacks. Outside food is restricted to guests with dietary restrictions or small children, and only in appropriate amounts. No coolers or backpacks full of food will be allowed. Also, be sure to bring cash for all purchases. This event is NOT pet-friendly.
What to Expect
Insider tip: The Family Entertainment Stage is held on both days of the celebration. Roving entertainers will also be at the celebration on both days. Paintball and Target Shoot for Kids is offered from 3:00 – 8:15 p.m. and a STEM SeaPerch station (an underwater robotics educational activity) will run from 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. on both days. Try indoor rock wall climbing in Building 4 from 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. on July 3rd and on July 4th. While you are in Building 4, visit the Military Exhibits on display from 3:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. on both days.
A complete schedule of events, including main stage musicians, can be found in their online brochure.
Family Entertainment Schedule for July 3, 2017:
4:00 p.m. Clown Performance – Jay Jay the Clown
5:00 p.m. Interactive Entertainment by Fun Wizz
6:00 p.m. Juggling Variety Show with Rick Colen
7:00 p.m. Interactive Entertainment by Fun Wizz
Family Entertainment Schedule for July 4, 2017:
3:00 p.m. Contests and Games
4:00 p.m. Juggling Variety Show with Rick Cohen
5:00 p.m. Clown Performance – Jay Jay the Clown
6:00 p.m. Patriotic Magic Show – Kevin Adair
7:00 p.m. Juggling Variety Show with Rick Colen
The carnival is open from 3:00 – 10:00 p.m. on both days. Ticket pricing not available at time of publication; however, in the past they have been $1 each. Individual rides require between three to five tickets each.
Food vendors will serve standard festival fare, including burgers, hot dogs, brats, Polish sausage, chicken, ribs, barbecue sandwiches, pizza, pita wraps, funnel cakes, gelato, soft pretzels, mini donuts and cotton candy, smoothies and beverages. Prices for meals will range from $3.50-$7.50 for most offerings.
Insider tip: Plenty of porta-potties will be on site, but there are indoor bathrooms available in the Ross Theater on the festival grounds that have baby changing stations in both the men’s and women’s restrooms.
Insider tip: Little Lake County reader Nikki K. suggests attending on July 3rd if you have young children. Arrive early to grab a great spot on the lawn early to watch the fireworks. On July 3rd, fireworks will light up the sky beginning at approximately 9:45 p.m., and July 4th fireworks are held at 9:30 p.m. Little Lake County reader Amy B. describes the fireworks show as THE BEST I have ever seen. The event organizers strongly advise to arrive at least two hours before the fireworks begin. If the general public parking is filled up, Gate 3 will close. Gates for inbound traffic close at 8 pm.
But what if it rains?
Insider tip: In case of inclement weather, most events will continue, some with delays. For weather updates throughout the festival, call (847) 688-2110, ext. 484. Celebration updates are also found on Facebook and Twitter.
Do you have any other insider tips of your own about attending the Naval Base Great Lakes July 4th Celebration? We’d love to hear them. Please share them in the comments section below.