In the days before the Sister Cities Fall Festival began, many Heights residents were concerned about violence at the event. In fact, they were so concerned they made an immediate decision not to go.
It's not difficult to figure out where this fear comes from. All it takes is one bad experience at one of these events to sour a person's perception of them. The bad experience could be direct but it is more likely heard about through a friend or the media. Regardless, one can't blame people for not wanting to take the chance.
I took the chance, and not just as a reporter. I took my family to the festival Saturday afternoon.
First impression? I was surprised at the police presence. The Chicago Heights Mobile Command Center was parked on 10th Street, in front of , and several uniformed police were walking the area. The fires of trouble would be stamped out quickly.
But nothing happened. People ate. People drank. Families played bingo. Kids rode carnival rides. Kids rode ponies. Kids rode their parent's backs. It was fun.
Judging by the well-organized security at the festival, the City of Chicago Heights is well aware of past occurrences, and learning from the past can never be frowned upon. I spoke with police who were at the event, and they said it went "beautifully," and while I was not there all three days from open to close, the time I did spend at the festival was not filled with fear and worry.
Maybe events like this will change residents' minds about the state of the Heights. Maybe it won't. But I'd like to think this past weekend shed a positive light on the future.
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