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Grafton to say bye to floodwaters, hello to tourists with Independence Day celebration

Grafton starts cleaning up after two-month long flood

Renee Burgess, of Grafton, IL discusses cleanup efforts at Ruebel Hotel, and throughout Grafton. The area has been hit by flooding since mid-April.
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Renee Burgess, of Grafton, IL discusses cleanup efforts at Ruebel Hotel, and throughout Grafton. The area has been hit by flooding since mid-April.

Businesses in the riverfront town of Grafton are preparing to reopen this weekend after floodwaters forced them to close for most of the busy season this year.

The celebration will kick off at 7 p.m. Independence Day at the city’s Music in the Park on the corner of Market and Main streets. While there will still be areas of Grafton that remain under water, the majority of businesses from Raging Rivers to Drifters will be open.

The community is eager for visitors to come back, according to Janey Brummett, president of the Grafton Chamber.

“We are definitely excited to get our season going finally,” Brummett said. “Flooding has in one stage or another been around since late March and it’s had a major impact on Grafton businesses and the community. We’ve had a lot of volunteers and agencies come in the past few weekends and we’re trying to roll up our sleeves and get everyone ready.”

At 8:30 p.m. Saturday, a party will be held at The Loading Dock restaurant and bar with Mayor Rick Eberlin joining in on the celebration. Brummett said there will be fireworks just east of the business to follow.

This year Grafton experienced devastation with historical flooding, second only to the Great Flood of 1993. The closing of the Great River Road made it lose a lot of business from tourists, which it usually relies on for revenue. City revenue is down more than 80 percent due to closed downtown businesses which , Eberlin has said.

Cleanup efforts began last month in preparation for a July 4 weekend opening.

Now that it’s a reality, Brummett, a business owner herself, said she and others are “anxious and excited.” She said people have been commenting on the city’s official Facebook page throughout the season, hoping the restaurants, bars and shops along the confluence will open soon.

“It feels like a long, hard winter that’s lasted through July,” she said. “It has really taken a toll on us, but we’re Grafton strong and hopefully the rest of this year will see a substantial increase.”

Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.
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