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Thousands turn out in Jefferson City for 4th of July

Spectators look out from the City Parking Garage over the spinning carnival rides filling Jefferson City's Capitol Avenue as fireworks light up the sky during the grand finale of the Missouri Credit Union "Red White and Boom!" fireworks display at the conclusion of the two-day Salute to America on Thursday.

Spectators look out from the City Parking Garage over the spinning carnival rides filling Jefferson City's Capitol Avenue as fireworks light up the sky during the grand finale of the Missouri Credit Union "Red White and Boom!" fireworks display at the conclusion of the two-day Salute to America on Thursday. Photo by Kris Wilson.

Several officials said Thursday the Salute to America Festival’s afternoon crowd was bigger this year than last — and maybe bigger than the past few years.

With a regular breeze and temperatures in the low 80s, a number of festival visitors said it was enjoyable to be in downtown Jefferson City.

Several organizers said weather is the thing they worry about the most when planning each year’s event, even though it’s also the element they can control the least.

“I hope Mother Nature never repeats some of the storms that have come through,” said businessman Kevin Riley, who’s been part of the “Salute to America” Foundation committee for its entire decade of existence.

And Jill Snodgrass, who’s directed the festival for the past 10 years, added: “The weather really dictates whether or not the vendors do well, whether we have a good crowd, whether or not people are, generally, happy.”

In spite of weather worries, Snodgrass said, each year’s opening ceremony and the fireworks at the end of Independence Day always are highlights for her.

“I pretty much cry every year,” she said.

Kathy Crow also is a long-serving board member, and this year was the festival’s committee chair for the fourth time.

“The highlight for me is the people that we work with — the volunteers,” she said Wednesday night, “and the sponsors — year after year going back to them and asking them to be a part of it, and them not hesitating one bit.

“Seeing all these crowds just gives me goosebumps.”

For Riley, the highlight of the last decade came several years ago. “When I had a couple of military guys back from Iraq — one of them being my nephew — and just the privilege of being able to honor those guys up on stage, and what they’ve done for (all of) us,” he said.

“That was real special to my heart.”

Each year’s opening ceremony includes a reminder of the sacrifices the nation’s service members have made in fighting to defend the country and the freedoms we have.

This year the foundation celebrated its 10th year of planning and organizing the holiday festival — but recognized and remembered the events that happened before.

In her opening ceremony remarks, Snodgrass remembered the Lion’s Club fireworks displays at Vivion Field in Washington Park, which then were moved to the Capitol grounds in 1976 under the Chamber of Commerce’s sponsorship.

The Salute to America Foundation includes representatives of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Jefferson City business group, the community at large, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the city, county and state governments.

Crow said, over the years, the organizers have stopped trying to top the previous year’s program.

“This year we tried to do something really big, since it was our 10th anniversary,” she explained. “But I think every year, we try to do the best show and offer the best that we can for the community.

“We try to, definitely, grow the event or make it different, so that people don’t get bored with it. This year, we added two more stages — it’s just a work in progress.”

Several people on Thursday said the variety of events was one of the things they enjoyed.

In an interview and in her remarks during Wednesday’s opening ceremonies, Snodgrass emphasized the foundation board’s efforts to provide one of the state’s premier Independence Day events — without charging an admission fee to the people who attend.

For example, having the Missouri Credit Union agree to long-term support of the fireworks display has allowed the foundation to “pre-book our fireworks for multiple years ... so we’re able to save a lot of money (and) have a guarantee of fireworks availability even in years when the fireworks are scarce.”

See also:

2013 Salute to America photo gallery

Only 2 groups promote ‘politics’ during holiday festivities

Does celebration provide sales tax sizzle or fizzle?

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