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Fourth of July blast

July 05, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN

gregs@herald-mail.com

At Hagerstown's Fairgrounds Park on Monday before the fireworks, there were thousands of them: nifty metal and nylon folding chairs complete with shoulder bags and other creature comforts. They fold up to the size of a large poster tube and can turn an outdoor field into a comfy lounge in one minute or less.

Of course, there were thousands of bottoms to fill those chairs, too, but it was clear to people who came to watch the fireworks that many of their compatriots were likely more upright, more comfortable and on higher ground than many were the year before.

"I'm not a ground person," said Mary Harris, 35, of Hagerstown. She pointed at the brown, crunchy grass beneath her. "Me personally, I like the chair."

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Harris was perched atop a red, white and blue folding chair in the middle of the northernmost field at Fairgrounds Park as The House Band wailed away into the early evening. The carrying case wasn't far away.

Calling the old-style aluminum chairs "a hassle," Harris said the new style of chairs seems to make them so likable.

"They've gotten easier," Harris said.

There were 15,000 to 18,000 people at the park Monday, Hagerstown City Police estimated.

Those who attended said it was the usual things that brought them there.

"Food, music, fireworks - in that order," said Lona Elbutti, 33, of Hagerstown.

Tyshawnna Edwards, 7, who was with her aunt Monique Harris, of Hagerstown, said she was sad that she missed getting her face painted, but needed only a simple gesture to show what would put the smile back on her face. Standing in one of the concession lines, she simply pointed: It was the Sno-Cone line.

But once the food is bought, people need a place to eat. And this year the seating choices seemed to have become more crafty.

Eric Myers, 43, of Hagers-town, had five such chairs lined up, each occupied by a family member or friend. The one he was sitting in was a CVS-brand "Lounge Arm Chair," but he said he bought it at Wal-Mart. The price, still on the bag, showed it was $19.99.

"I've had 'em for a while. I keep 'em in the cars," Myers said. Whether it's July Fourth or a car show, "We use them for everything."

Myers' chair had a drink cozy in the arm and a pad attached to the front of the chair that held a pizza box - and presumably what was left of Myers' dinner.

"I wanted something that was different. ... I saw this one and said, 'I gotta have this one,'" Myers said.

There are better ones out there, though.

"I've seen 'em with tops on 'em. ... I don't know where you buy those at," Myers said.

Asked if he would buy one if he knew where to find them, he gave a long, slow nod with a wistful look in his eye.

Rob Rodgers, 44, of Funkstown, sat among family and friends at the fairgrounds awaiting the fireworks display. He was sitting in a chair similar to the one Myers had, but he was more proud of his $70 folding hammock.

Rodgers said he bought it for himself as a present for finishing the roof on his house.

"You wanna see it?" he asked a reporter.

Rodgers then started breaking it down. He pulled off the cloth center from either side of the metal latticework, which collapsed like an accordion. The structure folded and was in its tube bag in less than one minute.

"That's it," Rodgers said.

Mary Harris said the new chairs might be a sign of better things to come to the area. Maybe, she said, it's a sign that more stores are opening and there are higher-quality products in the area.

But she wasn't ready to say if being in a chair was better than being on the ground for everyone.

"I think it's your opinion," she said.

Demond Williams, 33, of Hagerstown, said he has a large family and he still prefers blankets.

"You grab the blankets, get in the car. 'Let's go,'" Williams said.

"You have a lot of people with the chairs. I guess it's more of a tradition" Williams said of using blankets. "That's the way my mother used to do."

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