All–American setting backdrop for America’s birthday

Published 6:00 am Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hanging around Helena on this July 4th proved to be a great way to sample our more relaxed, small-town way of life and enjoy mingling and greeting friends among the amphitheater crowd estimated, by fireworks time, at several thousand.

“This is the first time we have offered afternoon events and those that came down had a good time,” said Councilwoman Cris Nelson. “We would have hoped for more families to come down earlier in the day, but we recognize many have their own holiday traditions.”

Helena’s cadre of faithful volunteers made possible a full afternoon of games of simple pleasure. Adults and children who tossed a Moon Pie into the bucket earned a chance to vie for $50 in shiny gold American Martin Van Buren dollars, contributed by Ron Holly.

The young winner actually hit the bucket all three times during his turn, so there was something just and wonderful in his name being drawn. That experience, and the look on the faces of his friends upon seeing the bag of gold coins, created a moment he will remember for a long time.

Second prize in the Moon Pie toss was an autographed Bo Bice T-shirt donated by Kent’s Gallery. An Uncle Sam trophy was also awarded at the scavenger hunt.

The supply of small and large watermelons for the watermelon relay came from one of the Helena Market Days vendors, Evans Farms. Children began the races with the smaller melons, but found it too much fun to stop – continuing on as part of mixed teams with the adults. At least one young player was hardly as big as the melon he carried, but all watermelons remained intact.

Boy Scout Troop 532 raised American flags in a late-afternoon ceremony and one scout sang the National Anthem a cappella. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church bell choir performed and sang a selection of patriotic songs.

The band Desert Rose kicked off the evening festivities playing classic rock with the flavor of Fleetwood Mac. Leading up to the fireworks, the Cuttin’ Loose band took the stage as the amphitheater filled with families – some with picnic baskets and others enjoying concession stand offerings.

By dusk it appeared everyone in town had settled in with their chairs and strollers and neon glow necklaces. Buck Creek Island was filled, as well, and the streets bustled with last minute arrivals anticipating Helena’s 10th annual fireworks display.