McHenry Fiesta Days

WHEN: July 12-21

WHERE: Petersen and Veteran’s Memorial parks, McHenry

INFO: or 815-385-4300

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CJ Snare had yet to actually find the “Love of a Lifetime” when he wrote the song while playing piano in a hotel lounge.

But what he had found was a hit power ballad. He just didn’t know it at the time.

Written before Snare even became part of the hard rock band Firehouse – performing July 12 at McHenry’s Fiesta Days – the song almost didn’t make it onto the band’s first album. 

“Bon Jovi actually heard that song and said, ‘Put that away. Don’t use that song. It’ll ruin your career,’” Snare remembered of the band’s early days.

When the band later worked on its first album in 1990, the producers were looking for a power ballad, other than “Midnight Fantasy,” a song Snare had written for the band’s demo. They talked about bringing in some outside writers.

“I sheepishly raised my hand and said, ‘I have another one,’” Snare said of “Love Of A Lifetime,” which later became the rhythm for many a first slow dance. 

A classically trained pianist, playing since the age of 5, Snare had used a drum machine to write the ballad one night while rehearsing after a lounge show. 

“The song really wasn’t about any person,” he said. “I hate to say that because it takes some of the glamour out of it.”

The song, as well as Firehouse’s numerous hit singles from its self-titled debut album, catapulted the band into stardom during the 1990s. 

With nine albums released, the latest being “Full Circle” in 2011, Firehouse has had a loyal following since its big-hair, rock band roots. 

Members Snare, guitarist Bill Leverty, drummer Michael Foster and bassist Perry Richardson continue to tour worldwide, a couple with, and a couple without, the big hair.

Snare never really was a huge fan of the big hair. 

“When I wasn’t on tour, I really did wear it back in a ponytail all the time. It was so hot,” he said. “It wasn’t hard for me to snip it off.

“I always thought it’s about the music. It’s not about the hair or the clothes you wore. Apparently, some fans felt very differently about that. I still get asked to this day, ‘When are you going to grow your hair back?’ That was then. This is now.”

Even though he performs with Firehouse all over the world, Snare also has a band with UK guitarist Chris Green. Going by the name Rubicon Cross, that band expects to release its first single in September.

“It’s very much modern sort of rock,” Snare said.

He intends to promote Rubicon Cross during his down time from Firehouse, and expects few conflicts between the two.

“Firehouse is that band from the early-’90s and those hits and that time and that era, and the nostalgic thing, whereas this is a new band that is active,” he said. “It’s pulling in two different audiences.”

Meanwhile, fans from not only the United States, but in Asia, South America, Europe and elsewhere, continue to sing along to the Firehouse hits many of them grew up loving. Other top-selling singles included “Don’t Treat Me Bad,” “Reach for the Sky,” “All She Wrote,” “I Live My Life For You” and “When I Look Into Your Eyes.”

Firehouse was the first major international rock band to play concert dates in northeast India, when it sold out a stadium crowd of more than 40,000 in Shillong, setting a record for the city. 

The moment was one of Snare’s proudest in his musical career.

“You can’t carry on a conversation with these folks in day-to-day life, but they all sing the words to your songs,” he said. “As an artist, that’s so gratifying. It’s like, ‘Wow, we really made an impact that way.’ ”

Firehouse also won the American Music Award for Best New Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Band of 1991, edging out Nirvana and Alice in Chains.

Snare remembers well when Dick Clark walked across the stage to shake their hands. All band members had prepared a speech, but were too nervous to speak and pushed Snare toward the microphone when the moment came.  

Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey and other legends were sitting in the front row.

“I look like I’m really calm, but inside I’m going nuts,” Snare said.

“It was the beginning of the end of an era. Nevertheless, it was mind-blowing.”



WHAT: McHenry Fiesta Days

WHEN: July 12-21

WHERE: Petersen and Veteran’s Memorial parks, McHenry

INFO: or 815-385-4300.


July 12

Hours: 5 to 11 p.m. Gate admission: $12 adults. Pre-sale reduced rate at Children 10 and younger admitted free. Amusement rides.

• 7 p.m. – Dorydrive

• 9:15 p.m. – Firehouse

July 13

Hours: 3:30 to 11 p.m. Gate admission: $15 adults. Pre-sale reduced rate at Children 10 and younger admitted free. Amusement rides.

• 3:45 p.m. – Blackened - Metallica tribute band

• 5 to 7 p.m. – Rock N’ Rev Motorcycle Show

• 7 p.m. – Great White featuring Jack Russell

• 9:15 p.m. – Queensrÿche

July 14

Hours: Noon to 9 p.m. Gate admission: $5 adults. Adults can gain a coupon for $2 off gate admission at Children 10 and younger admitted free.

• 8 3 p.m. – 30th annual Northern Illinois Street Rod Association Car Show; free dash plaque for each participant as well as awards given for Street Rod Open, Street Rod Closed, Special Interest, Street Machine/Pro Street, ’50s-’80s, ’90s-2000s, Truck, Stock Custom, 4x4 and Nostalgic/Rat Rod. Cost to participate: $15.

• 1:15 p.m. – Bands of McHenry County compete for Fiesta Favorite. Audience votes. Winner announced at 6:30 p.m. Bands include Veilside, Evolution, One Night Stand and 4 Grand.

• 12:15 to 3:30 p.m. – “Build on Site” Plywood Boat Challenge; bring the specified supplies or let us provide them for you. Awards will be given. Teams have the extra advantage of gaining complimentary entrance to the park, winner T-shirts and appearance with boat in the Fiesta Days parade. Register at

• 2 to 4 p.m. – Bags tournament by McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce’s Referral Group MC3. Portion of proceeds to benefit “Shop with a Cop.”

• 2 to 6 p.m. – Family Fun Day by The Chapel (new event)

• 2 to 6 p.m. – Mighty Trucks

• 2:15, 3:45, 4:30 p.m. – BMX shows featuring Stunt riders from Indiana performing daring tricks

• 2 to 6 p.m. – Crossfit Prevail, adult obstacle course

• 6:30 p.m. – Libido Funk Circus

July 15

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m.

• 6:30 p.m. – Big Wheel Race at Petersen Park; 5:30 p.m. check-in. Children ages 3 to 5 will ride their plastic Big Wheels to compete for first, second and third place. Big Wheels available to borrow. Cost: $5 a child.

• 7 to 10 p.m. – Teen Night at Petersen Park. Exclusively for teens ages 13-19. Cost: $1. Featuring entertainment by “The University.”

July 16

• 6:35 p.m. – McHenry River Run; 5:45 p.m. check-in at Veteran’s Memorial Park. Cost: $20 day of race.

July 17

• 5 to 8 p.m. – Open track meet at McCracken Field. Traditional running events for children ages 6-14.

July 18

• 5 to 9:30 p.m. – Fiesta Days Concert in the Park at Veteran’s Memorial Park featuring McHenry Stage Band with Maureen Christine at 7:30 p.m.. A recognition ceremony for 2013 Parade Marshal Pete Merkel at 7 p.m.

July 19

• 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. – Inside sidewalk sales

• 3 to 8 p.m. – Children’s Ice Cream Social at Veteran’s Memorial Park. Event caters to children 8 years and younger.

• 4 p.m. – 4 Strings Attached of the Martin Lopez Academy

• 5 p.m. – Mar Ray Dance Studio

• 6 p.m. – Exotic Animal Show invites children to touch and experience all creatures from pythons to armadillos.

• 7 p.m. – Josh Sukow of Funbelievable

• 7:30 p.m. – Crystal Lake Strikers marching percussion unit

Other events include: Oobstacle course, face painting by Coldwell Banker Honig-Bell, McHenry Township Fire Protection District Fire Safety House, and finger printing by McHenry Police Department, inflatables and more. Cost: $5 hand stamps for all inflatables and games, duck pond, face painting, balloons, bozo buckets, ring toss, fire safety house and free ice cream.

July 20

• 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Outside sidewalk sales

• 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Arts and crafts in the park at Veteran’s Memorial Park

July 21

• 1:30 p.m. – Fiesta Days Parade: Main Street to Green Street to Pearl Street to Riverside Drive. Appearing will be the German Wheeler, Tebala, Stilt Walker, Those Funny Little People, Jesse White Power Tumblers, Drum and Bugle Corps, The Strikers, McHenry High School Band.

• Immediately following the parade: Drum and Bugle Corps show in Veteran’s Park with the Viscounts.