Mundelein administrator relishes role with festival

Mike Flynn likely won't miss the long hours working Mundelein Community Days from 8 a.m. until after midnight for four consecutive days. But he will miss his favorite part of the annual event he's run for nearly 30 years.

"I'm always in communication with the ground zero where they shoot the fireworks off," said Flynn, Mundelein's village administrator who will retire in spring 2017.

"I always lead a countdown. When we hit zero, or blast-off, they shoot the first one. It's the feeling of total control. For me, that's my favorite. When my kids were young, they just got a real kick out of that," Flynn said.

The annual Mundelein Days runs July 1 through the evening fireworks display on July 4. It includes a July 3 parade; July 4 5K run and walk; a beer tent; live music; firetruck rides for kids; horseshoe and bags tournaments; crafts; pie-, jalapeno- and watermelon-eating contests; a carnival; and the Mundelein Munch, featuring local eateries including a new ice cream vendor that recently moved to town.

Flynn said when he started working on Mundelein Days, it was in its infancy and community members were just learning how to put it all together.

"It started with the Munch around 1984 or 1985, and it evolved extensively over the years," he said.

"The first year, we didn't have a ticket booth. We sold beer tickets from an old gray military desk. We had a small stage surrounded with bales of hay like a hootenanny," he said.

"When I first started, we had a really antiquated wiring system for power, so the village board invested in a good, safe circuit."

Fireworks and a parade were always part of the celebration, he said. But over the years, "it's become very unified with a lot of participation by community members," governmental departments and businesses, he said.

For example, the fire department now joins in the celebration by bringing an out-of-service firetruck for children to ride.

"The fire department came up with that idea," Flynn said. "They like doing outreach. There's a long line of kids to ride the firetruck. It's very popular."

Other events run by local clubs and businesses include the children's watermelon-eating contest sponsored by the local Kiwanis Club and crafts activities sponsored by Home Depot, he said.

Flynn said Mundelein Days has grown to include more activities, including pony rides, a magician, crafts and a pancake breakfast.

"We try to keep something going on all the time," he said.

Flynn said the village appreciates being able to use the grounds of Santa Maria del Popolo Church and its parking lot during the festival.

Flynn, who loves music, said he's worked to bring more musical talent to the event and set them up on a larger stage.

The biggest name we have this year is Bella Cain. They have a big show. They'll play on the Fourth of July. That will be a good night."

Flynn added, "I'm really interested in Latin, jazz and salsa, and we have a new group called Contrabanda playing this year. We don't usually have that type of music. It's a big band." The group performs at 5:30 p.m. July 2.

As the festival nears, Flynn said volunteers are still looking for the right size and uniformity for the blueberry pies that will be used in the pie-eating contest.

He will get his final challenge of Mundelein Days when the parade at 2 p.m. July 3 goes down a different route than normal because Hawley Street is under construction.

This year the parade will form at the Mundelein Metra Station parking lot, 205 N. Archer Ave., head west on Division Street to Midlothian Road, then north to Mundelein High School.

"We've gone through extra planning for the parade this year, and we have extra volunteers to help shepherd people in the right direction. I think there are over 1,000 people in the parade."

Sheryl DeVore is a freelance writer.

Mundelein Community Days

When: July 1- 4

Where: Downtown Mundelein

Tickets: Free

Information: 847-949-3223; mundelein.org/mcd/events-posts

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