Fourth of July celebration dazzles participants

Published 5:43 pm Friday, July 7, 2017

Celebrate America, co-sponsored by the City of Greenville and the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, returned to Tiger Stadium on Tuesday with a plethora of activities for kids of all ages on the field—and nary a drop of precipitation or a single crack of thunder.

“No rain. Isn’t that great?” chamber of commerce director Francine Wasden said with a grin as she looked up at the clear, mercifully cloudless sky.

It was still plenty warm, of course— literally 90 degrees in the shade–and the hand fans given out by Crowne Health Care and Greenville Chevrolet were sighted everywhere as attendees in the stands and on the field stirred up a little breeze.

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A bubble machine courtesy of Lisa Nimmer of Healthy Kids and First Steps had kids batting and blowing on iridescent globes floating around them. Nimmer’s daughter Ruthanne supervised  what might have been the world’s largest beach ball, with youngsters happily pushing and bouncing the big inflatable from one end zone to the other.  “We could have used a couple more of those. They literally had a ball with it,” chuckled Wasden.

Frisbee toss, tug of war, jump rope, hula hoops, cornhole toss and more kept kids and adults active and engaged on the field.

The chamber’s Camellia Girls Sydney Owens and Bethany Ann Odom broke out the paints and brushes for face painting, while other Camellia Girls and Chamber Pages assisted with the games and helped pass out an array of patriotic items, from miniature American flags to star-spangled headgear.

Little Adalynn Lett sported some red-white-and-blue stripes on her face to coordinate with the festive outfit her mom, Rebecca Lett, had created pretty much at the last minute.

“Last night, she looks at me and says, ‘But I don’t have anything July the Fourth to wear, Mama.’ So—this is what I put together,” Lett laughed as the two waited in line at Dixieland Concessions for a cool drink and a bite to eat. The vendor offered such delights as fresh funnel cakes, deep-fried Oreos, hot dogs and cheese fries, while across the way Tastee Blizzard Shaved Ice served up rainbow-hued frozen treats. The success of those vendors led to several hundred dollars going to scholarships for the Camellia Girls and Chamber Pages, Wasden said.

Kyle Haynes and David Norrell of the Kyle and Dave Morning Show in Q-94 emceed the event, providing lots of fun summertime and patriotic tunes from the broadcast booth as they encouraged attendees to join in the fun on the field.

“Francine Wasden, Where is Francine? We want to see you jump that rope, Francine,” challenged Norrell over the loudspeakers. It was a challenge the chamber director passed with flying (or should we say leaping) colors.

The Greenville High JROTC Color Guard presented the colors, and later the crowd saluted the Stars and Stripes as the National Anthem played and twilight faded into darkness. The ever-popular fireworks display drew plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” and enthusiastic applause as it vividly lit up the night sky over the Camellia City.

And Wasden? She is still smiling.

“It was wonderful! It was a great, fun night and we were really pleased about the outcome. It started off slow. There were not many people there at first, but within 30 minutes people were coming and coming, and the next thing you know, the stands were full,” Wasden said.

She also noticed many of those were unfamiliar faces.

“We’ve been doing this for several years now, it’s an established event. We definitely do have a draw from other communities like Evergreen and Luverne and that’s wonderful.”

As for future events, Wasden is tossing around a few ideas passed on to her this year.

“We’ve had suggestions such as pitting the fire department and the police department against each other in a flag football game or bringing in some live music again to draw people into the stands earlier . . .  this year, we did want to give the grass on the field a chance to get well established again before we put a trailer out there. Those ideas are definitely something to consider for the future.”

Wasden expressed her appreciation to all the businesses and volunteers for their support in putting on another successful event.

“People really loved all those games and prizes this year, and it was Hwashin and Hysco who actually contacted us about making donations. Those monies went to help supply all those goodies. It takes a small army to put all this on and our army did such a great job.”

Wasden does have one suggestion for fireworks fans.

“Some of the fireworks can really only be seen well and appreciated from inside the stadium—so come on in and find a seat in the stands or down on the field for maximum enjoyment at Celebrate America 2018.”