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Summer event organizers consider smoking section

KShawn VanDiggelen (far right) VernHills dance as GBlossoms performed VernHills' 50th Anniversary concert night kick off  Summer Celebrati2008. |

Kat and Shawn VanDiggelen (far right) of Vernon Hills dance as the Gin Blossoms performed at Vernon Hills' 50th Anniversary concert night to kick off Summer Celebration in 2008. | DARRELL HARMON~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 6, 2014 6:17AM

Organizers of the annual Summer Celebration are asking Vernon Hills officials to allow a small smoking section this year.

The event has typically prohibited smoking — especially since the park district banned all smoking in parks late last year — but the celebration’s committee says it doesn’t want to discriminate against anyone.

Kathy Zerillo, co-chair of the committee, asked the Village Board on Jan. 21 to support a request to the park district for a small roped off area behind the beer tent, but far enough away from the carnival.

The state and local law requires smokers stand 15 feet away, which make patrons of the Summer Celebration cross Lakeview Parkway to smoke.

A major reason for suggesting a smoking area by the beer tent, Zerillo said, is because alcohol cannot leave the festival and the committee doesn’t want violations or patrons trying to hide unattended open alcohol inside the park.

Three of the four voting trustees at the Jan. 21 meeting hesitated before the 4-0 vote to ask for permission from the Park Board of Commissioners.

Trustee Thom Koch said Vernon Hills implemented a smoking ban years before the state did, and he supported that ban, but he thinks the Summer Celebration is a “unique festival” that should be available to all. He also said making people cross a busy street could pose an unnecessary safety risk.

Trustee Barbara Williams said she doesn’t think maintaining a smoking ban would hurt attendance, but she also didn’t mind asking for the park district’s opinion. Williams did say she expects patrons to get ticketed if they leave cigarette butts on the ground.

Trustee James Shultz said he was comfortable with asking the park district, out of respect for the committee’s gesture, but he hopes the park district says no.

Park District Executive Director Jeff Fougerousse addressed trustees during the meeting, saying Park Board President David Doerhoefer prefers to keep the prohibition fully active but would discuss the topic with commissioners if a formal request was made.

Fougerousse said he personally thinks the park district would look hypocritical if the ban were lifted.

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