BATAVIA – Kriss and Terri Knowles said they have been to the Batavia Sky Concert at least 20 times, but they stopped coming to Engstrom Park for the event when their two daughters got older.
Friday was a return to tradition for the family, as they sat on lawn chairs in the park with one of their daughters, Jacki, joining them.
"It's more fun to be close up and see the effects along the ground, hear the booms," Kriss Knowles said.
The Knowles family were part of the crowd that usually numbers 10,000 to 15,000 each year for the Batavia Sky Concert. The concert is in its 65th year and is known for it fireworks display synchronized to a specific song list created for each event.
The fireworks are set off on the Mooseheart property south of Batavia, so Engstrom Park on the city's southwest side becomes the central viewing area for many residents.
"The weather's perfect – we filled this place pretty quickly," said Mark Davis, chairman of the 2014 Batavia ACCESS Fireworks Committee.
Davis said the concert continues to be a strong community effort with volunteers and donations collected every year. This year the committee expected to reach its $40,000 fundraising goal, thanks to numerous fundraisers, corporate sponsors and the $5 donations collected for parking on Friday in various lots on the city's west side.
The concert, including the fireworks and its amenities, costs about $38,000 each year, Davis said.
Several residents staked out spots in Engstrom Park hours before the concert's scheduled 9:30 p.m. start time. Jessica Wild of Batavia was driving by the park at 11 a.m. Friday and decided to lay out a blanket for a choice viewing area on the park's east side.
"We enjoy the fireworks," Wild said, sitting next to her husband, Jon, and son, Oliver, 8. "They do a very good job."
The family rode their bikes to the park partly because of the large exodus of car and foot traffic when the concert ends. Malki Duque of Elburn also rode his bike to the event, along with girlfriend Bridgette Koukos of North Aurora.
This was Duque and Koukos' fourth year attending the concert together and their first watching the concert a turquoise hammock. They decided to tie it between two trees in the park to be slightly higher up, and to be comfortable.
"The atmosphere here is very relaxing," Duque said. "It's nice to be around people who are here to enjoy the same thing."