Despite an initial recommendation by the village’s Special Events Commission to cancel a community-wide park celebration on July 4 this year, the Brookfield Village Board has directed the commission to organize an event in Jaycee/Ehlert Park following the annual parade.

Yesterday after press time the Brookfield Special Events Commission met to work out some details of the event, including a recommendation on where it will be located in the park. The commission’s suggestions are expected to be considered by the village board at the Feb. 10 meeting.

The community Fourth of July picnic is typically held in Kiwanis Park, next door to the village hall. However, the park is undergoing a major renovation in 2014 and it will be closed to the public throughout the summer.

On Jan. 13, Brookfield Recreation Department’s Arlene Rovner outlined three options from the Special Events Commission — shifting the celebration to Ehlert Park, re-routing the parade and closing off the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard in order to host the celebration there or canceling the post-parade event.

Hosting the event on Grand Boulevard would have necessitated closing Grand Boulevard all day and Prairie Avenue for at least part of the morning. The village would have had to rent tables and chairs and restricted the ability of participants to grill. In the event of extremely hot weather, as was the case in 2012, the street would be an inhospitable spot.

Ehlert Park on the other hand poses its own issues. The village would still need to rent staging, lighting and sound equipment and have an outside company provide electricity to the site, which would likely be in the southwest corner of the park.

The event would likely need to start a little later in order for staff and participants to travel and set up in the park. There’s no water source near where the likely picnic site is located. 

Commissioners also felt that the venue change would keep people away. And, like Grand Boulevard, there’s not a close indoor cooling center nearby in case of extremely hot weather. At Kiwanis Park, people can use the lower-level recreation hall inside the municipal building to cool off.

“We felt when you added up the expense, it might not be justified for the amount of people that might come,” Rovner said, who suggested that the money not spent on the picnic might be able to be used to improve the parade.

As a result, the Special Events Commission recommended against a community picnic in 2014.

But elected officials quickly shot down that recommendation, and settled on Ehlert Park as the location of this year’s event.

“I know it’s an additional cost, but it’s such an important community event,” said Trustee Michael Garvey. “I still think we should try to do something.”

Trustee Nicole Gilhooley said that hosting the event in Ehlert Park might be a good way to showcase the improvements done there in recent years to residents who normally don’t get a chance to visit the park.

Village President Kit Ketchmark acknowledged the additional expense by having the event in Ehlert Park, but signaled his approval for the commission to perhaps spend more than budgeted on the event this year to make it happen. The 2014 budget called for $8,550 to be spent on the July 4 parade and picnic.

“This is not a tremendous amount of money being spent on this,” said Ketchmark. “I definitely think we need to continue that. We have a beautiful park and we should showcase it every chance we get.”

Ketchmark said he didn’t favor cutting the budget for bands and said, with respect to a concern over lower attendance, “These events are for the people who show up. It’s an opportunity to continue tradition.”

Trustees acknowledged that there would have to be additional communication with residents to make sure they know about the switch. And village staff will need to be at Kiwanis Park following the parade in order to make sure people are directed to Ehlert Park.

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