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AURORA, Ill. As the Independence Day parade returns to Aurora for the first time since the summer of 2019, health care workers will be honored in the event that doubles for many as a celebration of progress made in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celebrations across the area began Saturday night with a majestic fireworks show over Chicago’s lakefront, marking the first Independence Day fireworks since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. The fireworks were launched at a higher altitude to allow people to see them from across the lakefront.

The celebrations continue throughout Sunday across the Chicago suburbs.

Wheaton held a 4th of July parade at 11 a.m. in the downtown area, while Lincolnshire also held a parade at 11 a.m. Fireworks will follow at 9:30 p.m. tonight.

Elk Grove Village is hosting a free concert from Daughtry at 8 p.m. followed by fireworks, while Palatine is holding a Fourth of July Hometown Fest that takes place both today and tomorrow.

In Aurora, health care workers who treated the sick and administered the vaccine to thousands were honored for their call to service.

“Isn’t it a breath of fresh air? There’s definitely a reason to just celebrate, get out here and enjoy,” said Faith Nyong, with Amita Mercy Medical Center. “It’s been a long time coming for us and we’ve suffered to be real. For us, it all mattered. It all mattered as far as caring and making sure we provided excellent care for each patient but it was also heart-wrenching to tell family members that we can’t have you come in right now. t’s not safe.”

It’s why this moment of thanks, while free, is so fulfilling.

‘They were risking their lives because they didn’t have a choice,” said Lela Montes. “So now because of them and the sacrifices they made, we get to all be out here today.”

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