ST. CHARLES - As they made their plans for Independence Day, Perry Golz and Kathy Greer knew they wanted to go somewhere different this year.
And that's when Greer recommended St. Charles' Pottawatomie Park as their Fourth of July destination.
"There are a lot of places we could go, but I had been here years ago, and I remembered there was a pool, the river, volleyball nets," Greer said. "So much to do here, this was the place."
Thursday, Greer and Golz, of Marengo, were among thousands of people packing the park on the east bank of the Fox River to celebrate the holiday.
Many more people were still filing into the park by late afternoon, lugging in folding chairs, tents, canopies, small barbecue grills, coolers and many other accoutrements for an afternoon and evening in the park.
And many more people were still expected to crow the park as the evening drew on and the time neared for fireworks to be launched from nearby Boy Scout Island, across the river.
For those already in the park, the afternoon was passed with games like baggo or volleyball, while others tossed footballs, baseballs and Frisbees. The scent of grilled meat rose from nearly every picnic site.
Others simply whiled away the day seated in the shade or the sunshine, listening to music, chatting with friends, or just sitting back and taking in the scene.
A summer day that offered warm temperatures and mostly sunny skies, without oppressive heat and humidity, drew many to the park, staking out their picnic and fireworks-viewing spots in some instances well before noon.
Golz and Greer, for instance, arrived at about 11:45 a.m. and cooked up some meat of their own.
They said they were pleased to learn that the celebration would also include live music.
"Just an added bonus for us," Golz said.
Others, like Jinny Goral, of Elgin, and Dave Flood, of South Elgin, arrived later in the afternoon. Goral said she was making her sixth consecutive trip to the park on Independence Day.
Goral and Flood noted the crowds seemed much larger this year than last, as the weather was a marked improvement over last year's high temperatures near 100 degrees.
"This is just a really nice place to set up a picnic," Flood said. "So this year we brought the grill and some other stuff, and decided to do it up right."