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Friends, families celebrate Fourth of July at fireworks shows
A group of friends and family watch the third annual Laurel Park Fourth of July fireworks display from their lakeside home Sunday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Friends and families fanned out across Hall County Sunday for a sunny and warm Fourth of July filled with cookouts, music, cooling off with a dip in Lake Lanier and, of course, fireworks.

“It’s just been a great family atmosphere. We’ve really had a good time,” said Larry Emmett, commander of American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7, which put on its annual fireworks show at Laurel Park in North Hall.

Otherwise, except for a few minor incidents, people stayed safe on the holiday.

“It’s been very busy as far as call volume, but nothing major (has happened) so far,” said Col. Jeff Strickland, spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Part of the law enforcement agency’s job Sunday was making sure people got in and out safely at Laurel Park.

Emmett, talking a few hours before the event, estimated as many as 8,000 people would visit the park for the pyrotechnic display overlooking Lake Lanier.

People arrived early, picking out prime viewing spots and setting up grills, chairs and blankets.

Lifepoint Church on Pine Valley Road in Gainesville brought five inflatable “bouncy houses” to the park, letting children play for free.

“We’re just trying to reach people and let them know we’re here,” said church member Julie Pruitt, volunteering at a tent set up near the inflatables.

“We’ve had a huge turnout of our members and workers and that’s exciting,” Pruitt said. “And we have had just tons of kids.”

Volunteers also were handing out 1,000 water bottles bearing the church’s name and logo.

“Everybody’s thirsty out here,” Pruitt said. “It’s hot.”

Jeanette Johnson’s family gathered Sunday afternoon in a shelter at Wilshire Trails Park in Gainesville, throwing some ribs on the grill and just enjoying some time together.

“We haven’t seen each other in a while,” she said. “... We wanted to get the kids together. They have the park and little different attractions out here that everybody can enjoy.”

The family planned to check out the fireworks show later in Braselton, where they live.

For some, the Fourth of July wasn’t just about fun and festivities.

Some volunteers brought food to homeless people living under a bridge off Queen City Parkway in Gainesville and sat down at tables to eat with them.

“Fourth of July is about spending time with friends and family, and that’s what I’m doing today,” said Brad Pierce, who helped organize the effort.

“I’ve got to know these men and women over the past eight months and they’ve become my friends, so it was not a sacrifice to come out here today.”