Excitement for the big moment grew as the evening progressed. A large contingent of vendors brought food and refreshments for the gathering crowd. Political candidates had abundant opportunities to hand out literature and fans. The popular train ride for children had a steady stream of customers.
The evening was packed with activities. The pizza eating contest kicked off activity on the main stage around 5 p.m. The 10 adult contestants proved to be not as voracious as expected, leaving enough pizza left over for an impromptu youth division.
RWTB Martial Arts of Cassville followed with a demonstration of skills on the main stage that led up to the popular karaoke contest. James Eden, master of ceremonies, introduced 12 acts that charmed and entertained for over an hour.
The local band Speed Shift, armed with their own sound system, kicked up the excitement for about 40 minutes with a song list ranging from Buck Cherry to Elvis Presley. Children swarmed to the stage area for the chance to snag one of the free beach balls thrown by the band into the crowd.
At 9 p.m. First Sergeant Doug Weston from the Missouri National Guard came to the stage to give the patriotic address. Angela Borchardt, winner of the karaoke contest, set the mood with a soaring rendition of the National Anthem, followed by an invocation by Chad Bennett from the Monett Community Church.
Weston, the local recruiter for the National Guard, framed his comments around his tour of duty in Iraq in 2004-05. Weston focused on the topic of patriotism and what it means today.
"Since Sept. 11, a lot of people have come up and thanked me [for my military service]," Weston said. "Every now and then, someone asks how can I show my patriotism?"
The dictionary definition of patriotism is "love of one's country," Weston said, which can be shown in many ways. People can tap into their love of the freedoms offered in America by going to church. Even starting a businesses and investing in the community can be patriotic acts.
"The biggest thing is to vote," Weston said.
In America, only 50 percent of the public goes to the polls, Weston said. In Iraq, facing peril and decades of never being able to vote, some people walked for days for the chance to cast a ballot. Around 95 percent of Iraqis made that trip.
"When those people got to vote," Weston said, "they had to tip their fingers in ink to show that they had voted. They held their hands up, proud, showing off the purple ink.
"Let's be patriots," Weston concluded. "If you really want to honor me, go to the polls and vote."
Following a brief break as the park grew dark, the fireworks show from A.M. Pyrotechnics began. The well-planned exhibition showered the sky with sprays of colored light. Again and again fireworks layered each other to fill the entire visible skyline.
|Long streaming golden willows, splashes of color punctuated by flashes like cannon shots came in waves. Ground displays shot rapid fire geysers of light into the sky between the shots bursting high overhead. The crowd erupted in cheers over and over as each large series of blasts seemed to top the last in a satisfying show, which ended in a massive shower of fireworks.|
Late evening activities resumed a little later than expected. Firemen and fireworks crews scoured the grounds for close to half an hour after the show seeking a few shells that may have fallen without exploding. Swing Shift resumed playing for those staying late and vendors remained open to provide refreshments for the party.
The Fourth of July Committee had a few logistical issues to overcome during the event. The biggest came from came from working with Star-Walk Entertainment, the vendor bringing inflatables for the children.
Discussions on Saturday over electrical issues and weather led to renegotiations for a reduced service. Star-Walk ended up bringing four inflatables in the 6 p.m. hour that were used without charge by the children, and stayed in use until activities closed around midnight.