KIRKLAND – For Denny Rehn, being a part of the Kirkland Lions Club and grilling 2,500 pork chop sandwiches this holiday weekend was a job he had to earn.
“My dad was a member of the Lions Club, but he wouldn’t ask me to be a member,” Rehn said. “He said someone else had to think I was good enough. And one day, someone did.”
Rehn has been a Kirkland Lions Club member for 40 years, which is hosting the 66th annual Fourth of July celebration this weekend at Franklin Township Park, 290 South St. Thursday was the first night of the three-day event, which is the Lions Club’s biggest fundraising opportunity of the year. Almost all of the proceeds will go back into the Kirkland community. About $13,000 is raised at the event each year.
Lions Club member Jeff Anderberg said the holiday celebration is older than the Kirkland charter of the Lions Club, as the first celebration was put together to raise money for a local community member who had cancer. Four months after the holiday celebration, the Kirkland charter was created. Many of the Lions Club members who put together the event have been participating in and attending the event since they were children.
“This is a part of Kirkland,” Anderberg said of the festivities. “It’s engrained in what you do. It’s what the whole thing is about: celebrating Independence Day and helping others.”
Part of Thursday’s festivities included the crowning of the Fourth of July queen. Five finalists were chosen, all from Hiawatha High School. One female from each of the freshman, sophomore and junior classes and two seniors were selected by their peers. They went through a private interview with the judges, and also were asked questions in front of an audience. Senior Bianca Garcia, who will be attending Kishwaukee College this fall, was crowned as this year’s festival queen and received a cash prize.
“I was so nervous, but it was a lot of fun,” Garcia said. “The crowd was nerve-wracking. Living in a small community, people my age say they hate it so much. But I’ve always found it fun and loving.”
More activities are planned at the festival today and Saturday. A parade will begin at 11 a.m. today, followed by a bags tournament, carnival rides, live music and more. Festivities will continue Saturday, with fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
For many, the weekend is all about the fireworks, and Lions Club member Greg Gissler said the group claims to have one of the biggest fireworks shows in Northern Illinois.
Cathy Flanagan, who attends the event annually with family, agreed.
"The fireworks are just awesome out here," she said.
For a schedule of activites at Kirkland's Fourth of July celebration, as well as other events throughout DeKalb County, turn to page A5.