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Wednesday, June 25, 2008 06:15 pm


A change in downtown’s July 4 fireworks, plus when rivers rage, Nader’s raider, and folks who post anonymously

Untitled Document GREAT BALLS OF FIRE! Up until now, one of our favorite summertime pastimes involved throwing back vodka tonics and taking in July 4 downtown fireworks shows from the palatial confines of Cap City Manor, on a secluded hill miles from the city. No more. The Springfield Jaycees, who organize the annual fireworks show, are switching to pricier close-proximity fireworks. This means that folks like us, who previously watched the pyrotechnics extravaganza from a distance, must trudge all the way downtown. There’s an upside, however. The new fireworks require less space, use fewer potentially hazardous explosives, and are more entertaining because the audience is up close and personal, explains the Jaycees’ Robbie Johnston. In past years, spotters had to be in place to watch for falling debris, which prompted complaints from downtown businesses. The fiery fallout also jeopardized trees and historical buildings. “We want to put on a great show, so we asked ourselves, ‘What else can we bring to the table if we can’t give you fireworks a mile in the air?’ ” Johnston says. Unlike in previous years, Capitol Avenue will be open to foot traffic so the celebration will also feature food vendors, music performances, an ice-cream social hosted by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, and other family entertainment. In addition, Capitol Radio Group has produced a CD to be synchronized with the fireworks display and simulcast on several local radio stations. The arrangement features a snippet of John F. Kennedy speaking. Despite being an Illinoisan, Johnston agrees that including a soundbite from the presumed Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama, might ignite controversy.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? We’ve written several times about the lovely village of Grafton, which is an easy day trip southeast, near Alton, and abloom with such tempting treats as bubble tea, wineries, antiques and B&Bs. Then there’s the 28-acre aquatic park with a tidal-wave beach and rides for all ages, located at the confluence of the Illinois River and the Mighty Mississippi. Appropriately named the Raging Rivers WaterPark, the facility was forced to close for a few days this week because of . . . ahem . . . raging rivers. On Tuesday we spoke with president and general manager Larry Smith, who was clinging to a forecast indicating that the rivers’ crest might flood some of the roadway leading to and from the park but not the facility itself. “Our damage will all be in the cash registers,” he says. Smith knows it could be worse. “We were here in 1993. We closed on July 6 and never reopened that season, so this is small potatoes compared to that,” he says. But, see, that’s why we think he ought to change the park’s name. After all, has Knight’s Action Park ever been shut down by sword-swinging, armor-wearing mounted marauders? There ya go.
NADER CRUSADER Christina Tobin has a burning passion for issue of ballot access. Tobin, who lives in Chicago, serves as the national and Illinois ballot coordinator for the 2008 presidential campaign of Ralph Nader. On Monday, the Nader team submitted over 50,000 petition signatures to the Illinois State Board of Elections to place Nader and vice-presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez, running as independents, on the November ballot. Tobin says she’s an independent and doesn’t subscribe to any political ideology other than the principle of open and fair elections. She’s worked on ballot-access drives for her father, Tim Tobin, who has run for governor and lieutenant governor as a member of Illinois’ Libertarian Party, as well as former Green gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney and Randy Stufflebeam of the Constitution Party. She flirted briefly with the idea of joining the presidential campaign of Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Tobin anticipates a challenge to Nader’s signatures, likely by the Illinois Democratic Party, which disputed Whitney’s petitions in 2006. That, she adds, would be a mistake this time around: “The people of Illinois should be aware of the time and money wasted challenging third-party petitions. It’s a loss of the Illinois taxpayer dollars when frivolous challenges are filed.”
Meanwhile, a petition campaign to urge Nader to seek the nomination of his former Green Party has been called off and the Draft Nader Committee disbanded. Greens have selected as their nominee former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, of Atlanta, who switched parties last year. McKinney is expected to formally receive the nomination at the Green Party national convention next month in Chicago.
Loath as we are to admit it, we laugh at the anonymous State Journal-Register online reader comments as much as the next Harry, Dick, Ashrak, and IlliniAmy. This week, the SJ-R started requiring Web readers to submit names and e-mail addresses before commenting. In theory, we welcome the change. As journalists who use our real names on the stories we write, we believe that individuals who lurk in the shadows, typing anonymous online comments and hiding behind assumed identities, are the lowest form of news participant. Except . . . under the SJ-R’s new system, it’s still possible to post messages without revealing your true identity. Just create an e-mail account under a pseudonym, then register. Call us old-fashioned, but real men and women write letters to the editor. It even takes a set of brass ones to call up your local talk-radio program and broadcast your opinions across the airwaves. So man up: If you don’t like what we said, send a letter to P.O. Box 5256, Springfield, IL 62705.
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