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A starlight night for family fun, fireworks
Concert at Gainesville State College raises money for scholarships
Paula Davidson of Oakwood pulls grandchildren Emma, left, and Jacob Thompson during the annual Gainesville State College Alumni Starlight Concert and Fireworks Show, which last year raised about $12,000 for scholarships. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Melanie Valencia was eager to find her classmates Friday night as she watched her dad and younger sister toss a Frisbee at the Gainesville State College Alumni Starlight Concert and Fireworks Show.

"I like to see my friends because we don't get to see them after summer vacation (starts)," the 10-year-old Martin Elementary School student said.

And though Melanie said her favorite part of the event was spending time with her companions from school, her father, Jorge Valencia, reminded her of another key element of the evening.

"And family?" he asked.

"And family," she said with a grin.

Family was the theme at the annual fundraiser, which is put on by the GSC Alumni Association.

"You can come out here, and you're safe, and you can have a good time," said Mary Transue, GSC's vice president of institutional advancement and the CEO of the Gainesville State College Foundation. "It's so family-oriented."

She said the event raised around $12,000 last year, and she thinks this year's festival will bring in even more.

"It's one of the ways we can reach out to the community and, of course, benefit the students," she said.
The $10 parking fee and revenue from a variety of glow items, including swords and fairy wands, will go toward scholarships for the school.

"Really, it's the college's gift to the community in terms of a great family night," said Michelle Brown, GSC director of alumni affairs. "It's really just a wonderful family night, and I can't say enough about it."

The Power Play Band provided music as families munched on fried chicken, pizza, sandwiches and wings. Groups spread out picnics across the grassy G.W. Bailey Amphitheater and simply had fun spending time together in the summer heat.

Some kids played soccer and others ran through the giant bubble machine situated in the grass.

But the daylight activities only set the stage for the main event: fireworks.

"The kids love the fireworks," said Alena Sandell of Flowery Branch, who was gathering her family together for dinner.

Her son, 6-year-old Griffin Sandell, wasn't ready to eat, though. He was too busy playing with his beach ball to stop for a meal.

He said the fireworks were his favorite part of the night "because they make pretty things in the sky."

Melanie Valencia was also excited about the colorful bursts of light.

"I like the shapes they have," she said. "And the colors."