Knox mayor Dennis Estok further explained some of his proposals for the city during a town hall meeting Monday. Much of it was spent discussing his plans to bring the city’s July 4th fireworks back to Wythogan Park. It’s part of his effort to bring more people into the park and revitalize the Downtown Knox.
He told residents that he plans to add other events and attractions to the celebration. Some of the ideas discussed Monday include a duck race, a lip sync battle, and a corn hole tournament. “So basically, if all this comes to happen, we will have the parade say Sunday at one o’clock, and then as soon as the parade’s over with, the park will open up and we’ll have games and that for the kids and the other things,” Estok says. “Those are just some of the quick fixes that I think we can do, so we can have something to look forward to. You look at Culver, what’s Culver known for? Their restaurants. What’s Plymouth known for? Blueberry Festival. You can go on and on. What does Knox have to look forward to? Right now, it’s nothing.”
Estok also responded to concerns about traffic and the lack of parking at Wythogan park. He says the park’s within walking distance from most of the city, and there should be enough parking for those unable to walk that far, “The parking, I think we can get 200 in there comfortable. We’re looking into maybe running some trams or something. I mean if you go to Walkerton, how close do you get to park in Walkerton? People walk. If you go to Winamac, people walk. There was probably three or four on Facebook, that actually don’t even live in Knox, about in their mid-30s [saying] ‘Oh my God! How are we going to get there if we can’t drive?'”
The mayor says that moving the fireworks into the city will actually improve the traffic situation, compared to their current location at the Starke County Airport, “Do you notice the last time I was out there at the fireworks? When I was mayor because I had to be. Other than that, I didn’t like the traffic out there. There was no way in heck I would do t hat again. I really wouldn’t. I think when it’s all said and done, if this thing works, the people are probably going to like it better because a lot of them are going to park downtown – on the street, in the annex, across at the depot. They’ll find a place downtown, and they’re not going to have to worry about all the traffic.”
Estok says residents from the rest of Starke County will continue to be invited to the fireworks display, but his main concern is promoting Wythogan Park, as well as the City of Knox. He notes that although North Judson, Hamlet, and Starke County have contributed toward the cost of the fireworks in the past, the City of Knox is who’s actually in charge of paying for them.
To help with the funding issue, the mayor’s calling on city’s larger businesses to chip in, “I was going over the donation sheets from the last two or three years. I don’t think there was too much industry that donated to our fireworks, but they sure want the tax abatements every time something comes around. So basically, you’ve got to try to bend them to their knees. I mean, you need to invest in your community other than providing the jobs, which they do, but they get tax incentives left and right. So they need to be involved in your community.”
Estok also used Monday’s town hall meeting as an opportunity to recruit volunteers to help organize the festivities. He says the turnout at the meeting far exceeded his expectations, and he plans to hold more of them in the future.