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Thousands wowed by fireworks show
Many say they like the new venue at Laurel Park
A view of the fireworks Friday night at Laurel Park. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Summer was in full swing Friday night as young and old, human and canine, made the pilgrimage to Laurel Park to watch the annual American Legion fireworks show.

Thousands of people enjoyed the outdoors with picnic blankets, sparklers and snacks, as they waited for dusk.

Friday was the first time the American Legion show has been held at Laurel Park, and many enjoyed the change of scenery.

The show was held at the American Legion Post 7 on Riverside Drive for more than 40 years.

Jeanie Whitworth and her mother, Myrtle Whitworth, have attended the American Legion fireworks show as long as they can remember.

"My husband was the manager there for 13 years," Myrtle said.

Even though they spent so many years at the American Legion location, both said they were happy with the new venue.

"It’s a bigger space and everyone can have their own privacy," Jeanie said. "So far we’ve been 100 percent pleased."

They said they also liked the show at Laurel Park because there are fewer hills and no alcoholic beverages allowed in the park.

Jeff Kembrell said he also liked the Laurel Park location, but thought the parking was better at the American Legion.

"People are more spread out and there’s a lot more good places to watch," he said of the park.

Ashley Martin, who was at the fireworks show with her family, said they usually set off their own fireworks at home, but came out to the American Legion show because it was cheap and "thought this would be a good open area to see them."

Her 4-year-old daughter, Lexani, said she was most excited to see the pink fireworks and hear the loud noises.

While most were happy with the change of scenery, some missed the old location. "It’s like a tradition," Melissa Stevens said, recalling the many summers she’s seen the fireworks at the American Legion. "And being the first time out here they’re a little disorganized."

Her husband, David Stevens, agreed. "We’d prefer the other one. The parking was much better."

Both agreed that if some "kinks" were worked out, they would not mind if the American Legion continued to hold the show there.

Virginia Bufkin of St. Simons Island was in town to visit family and was seeing the annual Gainesville fireworks show for the first time.

"I think it’s lovely," she said. "The Fourth of July is a family time for us."

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