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City celebrates Fourth

July 05, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Attendance was sparse for the opening of Hagerstown's third annual Independence Day celebration Sunday at Fairgrounds Park, but city Public Information Manager Karen Giffin was optimistic.

She predicted people would trickle in throughout the afternoon, and start streaming in about 7 p.m.

"We had about 12,000 last year; I think we will again this year - we may surpass it," Giffin said.

Though there was a little rain before the activities got under way at 4 p.m., the sun came out just in time for the opening. City Manager Bruce Zimmerman noted there was even a little breeze.

By early evening, organizers were keeping their eye on some bad weather that was heading toward the area. At presstime, there was no word on whether the fireworks would go on as scheduled.

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City officials were ready to move people into the grandstands and the Hagerstown Ice and Sports Complex if the rain returned. A rain date for the fireworks was set for today.

And they'd arranged for a lot of fireworks - Giffin said the city planned to set off 15,966 shells in 30 minutes beginning at 9:30 p.m.

"That's a little larger than last year," she said, but she wasn't sure whether the city's show rivaled the display at Antietam National Battlefield the night before.

"I don't know how many shells they used," she said. "I would like to know."

In the meantime, three bands provided entertainment. As Bobby Manriquez and his band were warming up, Mayor William M. Breichner teased that he could be persuaded to take the stage.

"I do the finale when we chase everyone out," he said.

"I went to school at St. Mary's, and I was the only one in the whole school who didn't make the operetta. The whole school was in the operetta, and I was relegated to stage manager. That tells you something about my abilities," he said.

Later, the stage would be occupied by The House Band and the Tokens, the band that originally gave us "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Under a canopy nearby, members of the South Hagerstown High School Band Boosters were set up to sell a whole menu of food and refreshments.

The menu included their signature "Rebel Dog," which Boosters President Jack Osborne described as "a hot dog with the works."

The boosters have operated a concession at the event every year since it started, he said. Last year, "we sold everything we brought. That's our goal - to leave empty-handed."

Charlotte Miller and her family were early birds. They arrived at the fairgrounds about 1 p.m., they said.

"We was about the first ones here," said Miller's brother-in-law, Matthew Creek.

They were listening to Manriquez's blues from under a mesh tent - "my idea," Miller said. "We didn't have it last year, and we suffered."

The music was Miller's favorite part of the event, although she allowed that "the kids love the fireworks."

Creek said July 4 at the fairgrounds fast is becoming a family tradition. The food, the fireworks, "I like it all," he said.

Across the grounds, children were playing, Frisbees were tossed and a few people were swaying to the music.

It was enough to warm a mayor's heart.

"I just enjoy that we have all the citizen participation - we have a lot of volunteers here today," Breichner said. "And just having a lot of people out here enjoying it."

"I also like the ice cream truck," he confessed.

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