Facelift just in time for Hobart Lakefront Festival

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Bridge work: Katerina Kjmakoska, (from left) Dawn Alvarez and Zong Rearick, all working with the Hobart Parks Department, recently planted annuals in a downtown planter in Hobart. The flowers are part of a park department's effort that includes painting the covered bridge and bandshell at Festival Park, where the Hobart Lakefront Festival is due to kick off Aug. 16. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

Anyone who hasn’t been to Festival Park since last year’s Hobart Lakefront Festival will find it has received an extensive face-lift in the interim, making it safer, more child-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

“We’ve done quite a bit of work in the last year,” Hobart Park Department Supt. John Mitchell said.

Most importantly, work on the $1.7 million dam restoration project has been completed, Mitchell said, allowing fest-goers to watch the Dam Duck Race — taking place in Lake George — this year with an unobstructed view.

“The dam itself is done. We painted the (Lou Kuchta Memorial) Bridge and just had someone reroof it,” said Mitchell, who added that decking would be replaced on the walk at the bridge in time for the festival’s opening day (today) as well.

The dam project was needed to stop erosion and the possibility of flooding.

Other improvements

The park department also added new playground equipment and swings for kids, did a complete overhaul of the fountain at the entrance to Festival Park, repaved the parking lot and replaced all the concrete in front of the Revelli Bandshell, where musicians perform during the festival and at Thursday night concerts during the summer.

Mitchell previously told the park board he would use the approximately $100,000 in remaining park bond funds, after paying for the dam project, to fund the other work.

“The concrete around the bandshell was coming apart and becoming a tripping hazard,” Mitchell said.

He said the aging fountain, which Mitchell estimated to be about 20 years old, wasn’t working much of the time. It was replaced by a new one and surrounded by a flower garden and wrought iron fencing.

Another improvement won’t be as noticeable to those attending the fest, but it will be appreciated by vendors at the festival and other city-run events. Mitchell said more electric posts were added in the parking area to solve a dire need for more power.

“We had problems with blowing circuits before. Prior to the new community center being built, the electric was not really that good at the park,” Mitchell said. “When you have an event like this electric is huge.”

He said he had electric poles installed every 20 feet when the community center was completed last year and added four more poles this year.

Much of the work outside of the dam project was done by park department employees.