Spectators find unlikely sites to watch air show
By Tina Johansson For Sun-Times Media September 8, 2013 3:10PM
Enzo Bartz of Waukegan plugs his ears from the sound of the planes. Seated beside him is his grandmother Maureen Ray and father Kevin Bartz | TINA JOHANSSON~FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Updated: October 10, 2013 6:34AM
Many people watched the annual Wings over Waukegan air show Saturday not from the Waukegan Regional Airport, but from the peripheral zone.
Equipped with lawn chairs, coolers and blankets, people found their niches on both sides of Wadsworth Road, in front of Kenneth Murphy School in Beach Park, a restaurant, and a strip mall.
While they may suffer a stiff neck now, they got to watch a good show, and in some cases it didn’t cost a dime.
Maureen Ray of Waukegan staked out a spot in a vacant lot across from the grade school. She was accompanied by her daughter Tina Bartz, son-in-law Kevin, and grandson Enzo, 3. “You can see everything from here, and we like to avoid the crowds,” she said.
Judy Reinke of Beach Park said she likes the freedom of seeing the show from a parking lot because “It’s wide open and I get a good view.”
Meanwhile, Willy Francisco of Zion watched the air show via a pair of binoculars while his family members sat in lawn chairs on the side of the road. “It’s better here because it’s free,” he said.
Debi Mitchell of Zion and Mary Schwanderlik of Antioch set up chairs in a vacant lot. “(Years ago), the air show was free,” lamented Mitchell. “Here, you can see just as well, and it doesn’t cost anything.”
Although the parking lot at Hoeksema’s strip mall across the street was teeming with watchers, a charge of $10 per car to park there turned some people off. When explained the money was for a good cause however — it was being collected for a scholarship fund for the Miss Northern Suburbs, a local preliminary pageant to Miss Illinois and Miss America — a few said they would reconsider.
Either way, 10 bucks a carload was still cheaper than paying $10 per head at the airport where the show was held.
“This is the first time we’ve done this. It was so chaotic last year,” said Robin Ruchti, a relative of the strip mall’s owner who had strung yellow ribbons to keep some order.
Ruchti of Winthrop Harbor and her daughter Kristen Hadap of Grayslake wore red T-shirts advertising the Miss Northern Suburbs pageant which they happen to be joint executive directors for. By days end, the duo collected $400 to go toward scholarships.
Hoeksema’s wasn’t the only place charging. Next to an American Flag, a small sign in front of the parking lot for a yet-to-be opened Mexican restaurant read, “$5.”