Mayor Ronnie Spradlin dates the city’s last, true Independence Day celebration to July 4, 1987, with fireworks exploding over R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.
He donned a new pair of star-spangled socks Tuesday night as the City of Kilgore resurrected the patriotic tradition with due pageantry three decades later.
Mindy Morgan and her family were among an estimated 4,000 people who descended on Kilgore City Park for this week’s celebration. The seven of them arrived a half-hour early July 4 in order to stake out a spot in front of the park’s amphitheater, the better to enjoy The Dagnabbit Band before the fireworks got underway after dark.
“It was amazing, absolutely amazing,” said Morgan, a U.S. Army veteran. She lingering after the event wrapped up following the pyrotechnic displayed donated by MPA Fireworks. “It brought in a lot of people. I can’t wait for next year. I really can’t wait for next year.”
In addition to the thousands in the park – where a handful of vendors offered burgers, drinks, ice cream, snow cones, sausage on a stick and other Fourth of July fare – thousands more spread throughout downtown Kilgore to take in the explosive display launched from the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Kilgore.
Kilgore City Pool was full throughout the evening as well . Considering the not-quite-ready state of the community’s coming splash pad, city officials waived admission fees at the public pool for the evening and also brought in a pair of inflatable waterslides for all comers.
“I think it was fantastic,” Kilgore Police Officer Angela Burch said, attending the event with family and friends. Her husband, Ron, is a veteran of the U.S. Army.. “I’m excited to see Kilgore doing events where Kilgoreites can go. We keep it within our community.
“I was very proud of Kilgore.”
Janet Clower was pleased – and overwhelmed – to see people crowding into the park, celebrating together.
“It was nice to have more community involvement like that,” she said. Clower remembers past Fourth of July events at the football stadium, and she’s eager to see them continue: “I just think it’s good to be able to pull people together like this.”
Victor Boyd joined fellow Kilgore City Council member Merlyn Holmes on stage alongside Mayor Pro Tem Harvey McClendon and Mayor Ronnie Spradlin to welcome the crowd. Minutes later Boyd, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, stepped to the microphone with Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck to sing “Anchors Aweigh” in an Armed Forces Medley performed by the Nutz for Freedom (a.k.a. Bier Nutz) brass ensemble.
It was “nothing short of awesome” to look out on the crowd, Boyd said.
“It’s what the community’s about: coming together for a great cause,” and the turnout definitely exceeded expectations. “It was just a great time for all.”
Good music, good food, good people, good fun, Boyd added, in an event that honored the nation and the people who have served it.
“It’s what every veteran enlists for: because of the flag, because of the freedoms that we have,” he said. “We want to continue that. We want do our part as an American citizen to leave a legacy.
“A celebration like that makes it all worthwhile. The people showing up shows the gratitude for the veterans and the people who come before us to make Independence Day what it really is. I couldn’t be more happy. I can’t wait til next year.”