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Friday, May 6, 2016

Labor Day fireworks show celebrates nation's birthday

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

With crowds gathered on the main field of Monett's South Park and below on the soccer fields, as seen above, Monettans and area residents enjoyed the fireworks display from A.M. Pyrotechnics on Monday. The show, though postponed from July 4, still offered a brilliant display of lights and brought satisfied cheers from viewers. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Monett's celebration of the nation's birthday attracted large crowds to South Park on Labor Day to complete the July Fourth celebration. Live music, a patriotic address and fireworks capped a day of festivities planned by the Freedom and Fireworks committee.

Temperatures in the 90s limited the crowds during the day. As the sun began to set, the park began to fill with people. The main festivities were held for the first time on the soccer fields. Around 10 vendors provided food and games.

Lain'z Hot Rod Gang, the rock band from Branson, provided two hours of live music from an unshaded stage.

The evening festivities started with a recording of the National Anthem. Michael Bates, one of the Monett Jaycees working with the Freedom and Fireworks committee, read a poem he wrote in 2004 for his father, in honor of veterans.

The poem concluded, "Their faithfulness is heaven sent, embraced by God's protection.

"Thank the ones who took a stand, and gave their lives for you, as peace unfolds across this land, in red, white and blue."

The featured speaker was Russ Hagar with the Missouri Army National Guard. A 2003 Monett High School graduate, Hagar now works full-time for Army aviation flight activity in Springfield as crew chief overseeing three UH60 Blackhawk helicopters.

Appearing in uniform, Hagar began with the dictionary definition of "patriotism" as "love or devotion for one's country." Devotion, he said, is easy to express for "the greatest country in the world." He cautioned to not withhold devotion because some hold differing views. The key, he stressed, is to believe above all in the country and to be proud of it.

Patriotism goes beyond location, Hagar said. Whether born in Monett or standing in Germany, and no matter what religion is held, an American can hold love for his or her country from any locale.

"Devotion is a belief in your heart," Hagar said. "What you feel comes out naturally."

People can show their devotion in many ways. Hagar suggested displaying a "Support your troops" car magnet and flying the flag are two examples. The flag should not be taken for granted either, he said. If flying at half-staff, then all flags should be lowered to show respect. Worn flags need to be replaced.

Hagar urged his audience to show gratitude to veterans. Some gestures can be surprising and still touching. Hagar described how he was coming home from work recently, wearing his uniform, when he stopped in Mt. Vernon to get gasoline. A teenager wearing an unnaturally colored Mohawk hairdo hailed him from across the gas station lot. Hagar went over to find the young man stopped him solely to say "thank you."

"If it wasn't for you, I couldn't look like this," the teen said.

"That floored me," Hagar admitted, finding the young man's sincerity and patriotism right on target.

Hagar's family can document military service back to his grandfather, Russell Leon Hagar, born in Monett in 1908. Active duty is not the only way to serve, Hagar said, as his brother, Jonathan Hagar, president of the Monett Jaycees, contributes by working to make the community better.

Hagar thanked the audience for turning out in a gesture of unity.

"When you disagree, don't walk away from your country. Raise yourself up, and remember, you are in the greatest country in the world," Hagar concluded.

The audience gave Hagar a standing ovation. After a short break and recorded patriotic country music songs played by the Shockwave Mobile Entertainment disc jockey, the fireworks got underway.

The A.M. Pyrotechnics show had fewer ground displays this year with uncertainty about where the audience would be located. As the show progressed, the launching crew found a high altitude to display the fireworks to all those parked along the roadside within a few miles of the park. The 20-minute show concluded with a large barrage and cheers from those gathered at the park.

Event organizers said they were pleased with how the postponed event finally took shape. The crowd in the park provided a steady stream of vehicles for about 30 minutes leaving the area.

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