Star spangled celebration
A line of strong thunderstorms late in the afternoon pounded the local area, but it didn't deter thousands of people from gathering at the city golf course to watch one of the largest fireworks shows in southern Idaho.
As the final shells exploded overhead, it culminated a day-long celebration as Mountain Home observed Independence Day last Thursday. It emphasized the community's patriotic spirit, which came alive earlier that day as households across town displayed American flags in their yards or on their houses.
Events in Carl Miller Park launched the city's main Fourth of July festivities as the El-Whyee Business Association's hosted its annual Fourth of July Festival in the Park.
Despite a lower-than-expected number of people in the park early in the day, participation picked up as the celebration continued, according to Bill Bamber, president of the local business association. While the park had an average number of vendors selling an assortment of trinkets and refreshments, it was the first time that the celebration featured a beer garden.
"Things went really well," Bamber said.
As Jeff Wilson and members of the local band Third Take performed on stage at the front of the park, people like Jordan Cox were busy preparing for this year's "Wash and Shine" car show.
With judging set for that afternoon, she was putting the finishing touches on the family's restored 1923 Dodge street rod. The classic vehicle would go on to win honors as the show's top truck.
Hotter weather days prior to Independence Day led to a lower number of classic cars in the yearly competition with some owners preferring to keep their cars and trucks out of the elements, according to Bamber.
As little tykes like Adeison Carrillo sat with her mother, Jessica, to enjoy her first taste of cotton candy, older children were drawn to an inflatable castle set up on the north end of the park. Hoping and rolling through the attraction, many of the children tumbled down the exit slide before they jumped back up and scrambled back inside for another try.
Music continued throughout the day, including a live performance by Rachel Waters, who took the stage to perform "Cowboy Take Me Away" by the Dixie Chicks. It was the first time the 14 year old had ever performed in public.
"I sang the same song at my mother's wedding, and I was asked to sing it here," said Waters, who has a lifelong love of singing.
Among the day's main highlights was the Little Miss El-Whyee Pageant, which drew dozens of participants, including many preschoolers. As each contest stepped on stage -- a few of them showing signs of stage fright -- these young girls offered a glimpse of their talent. A few chose to sing while others demonstrated their dance moves.
Among this year's contestants was Jasmine McDonald, who was looking for the right song to dance along with. It took a little encouragement by emcee Ty Ridenour to convince the eight-year-old to join him on stage to perform Psy's cult hit, "Gangnam Style."
According to Jessica Smith, who organizes the event, each of these young girls come away as winners. These contestants received a tiara along with other prizes for participating.
As the festival in the park continued throughout the afternoon, city fire fighters were busy preparing for the evening's fireworks finale. At a cost of approximately $31,000, this year's show featured more than 2,100 shells, making it one the largest in southern Idaho.
This year's fireworks display marked the second time that seating at the city golf course allowed people to get closer to the action. With blankets and chairs positioned in strategic vantage points, seating this year included the entire front nine, including the seventh fairway near the canal that separates the front and back nine holes.
In previous years, the crowd line was restricted to the first fairway next to North 18th East Street. However, a review of local safety guidance last year emphasized that people could get closer to the show while remaining well clear of the safety perimeter established around the launch site, said Mountain Home Fire Chief Alan Bermensolo.
Attendance at the city golf course doubled last year's attendance records, the fire chief said. In addition, heavy crowds had parked in available places north of the show, including the local Wal-Mart, Pilot service station and the Industrial Park areas.
The Independence Day holiday remained a fairly safe event with the city receiving no emergency calls related to fires triggered by fireworks by local residents. According to Bermensolo, it was the first time ever that the department didn't have to respond to at least one call related to a fireworks-related blaze. He credited the thunderstorm that blew across the area earlier in the day that brought rain and kept the ground damp.