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Small, enthusiastic crowd watches belated annual firework show

POSTED: September 3, 2013 12:41 a.m.

A smaller but excited crowd was at Laurel Park on Labor Day to see the annual American Legion fireworks postponed from a rainy Fourth of July.

Six-year-old Lindzie Parks didn’t let the thought of school at Wauka Mountain Elementary the next day dull her excitement.

“It takes forever!” she squealed impatiently.

Her favorite part about fireworks is that “they change different colors,” she said.

Parks was with family and friends, including Crystal Painter, enjoying time together. They came from Cleveland for the show and had been at the park since 11 a.m., Painter said.

“We’re here to spend time with family, and for the fireworks, of course,” she said, noting bad weather has hampered most opportunities this summer for outdoor outings.

James and Anita Smith, also from Cleveland, said they saw signs at the American Legion indicating the date change.

Anita Smith said her favorite fireworks were the ones with extra special effects.

“I like the ones where they shoot up and it’s different shapes, like a heart with an arrow through it,” she said.

Clad in blue, Bay Fireworks staff members were laboring throughout the morning and afternoon to set up the show.

They strategically arranged the rows and rows of mortars, hammering nails to the wooden planks that held them.

In the back of a truck pulled down near the water, workers unloaded stacks of brown boxes packed with the fireworks, the biggest the size of bowling balls.

Jim Lancaster is the show’s crew chief, and he has done firework shows since 1980 and the Legion’s Fourth of July fireworks for the past three years.

“Tonight’s show is what we’d call a ‘large show,’” he said.

The dazzling opening and finale portions are done electronically for safety, said Lancaster, a former Hall County Fire Department battalion chief.

Lancaster said he makes it a point to please the crowds both on dry land and on their boats.

“We set up some ... close to the boats and that really drew a response from them,” he said.

He estimated as many as 600 boats descend near the park on a good night.

Gainesville resident Rebecca Harris and her family were the first ones at the park Monday, she said.

“Every year we get the same spot,” she said, in a prime viewing area for the spectacle over the open, south view of the lake through Laurel Park.

“I actually called Laurel Park (on the Fourth of July) to find out if they would be rescheduling them because my kids were so disappointed,” said Harris, who has three teens and one toddler.

She said in past years there was a much larger crowd.

“It’s usually packed by this hour,” she said at 3 p.m., citing the rescheduling and school night as possible reasons for the dearth of spectators.

The balmy temperatures felt ominous for rain, but the weather held.

“It wouldn’t dare rain on us,” former American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7 Commander Dave Dellinger declared.

One benefit of a lesser crowd, Harris cited, could be the ease of getting out.

“The best part is the fireworks,” she said. “The worst part is the traffic getting out of here.”


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