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Martinsburg goes to the park

War Memorial Park hosts July 4 celebration

War Memorial Park hosts July 4 celebration

July 05, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

Alayzia Brown was making her way to a popular spot in Martinsburg - the swimming pool at War Memorial Park - but whether the two pink Lil Bratz flotation devices her father was carrying for her would make their way on to her arms remained to be seen.

"I don't like those and I'm not going to wear them," said 5-year-old Alayzia, more determined than stubborn.

She and her father were among the thousands of people who converged on the park Tuesday for an array of events, with the finale being a fireworks display.

If the annual event had a soundtrack, it would have sounded something like this: Country music playing from a professional sound system, basketballs bouncing, the thwacks of golf balls being hit on the miniature golf course, flip-flops flipping and flopping past, curt whistle blasts from lifeguards, splashing, hamburgers sizzling, insects buzzing and, of course, all the pops and chest-rattling booms that accompany fireworks.

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Some people arrived just in time for the bright lights. Others staked out choice spots under large shade trees and public pavilions well before.

By arriving around 9:30 a.m., Mary Shade and her family were able to claim a spot under trees as well as a built-in park grill. A few hours after arriving, Shade and her adult daughter, Tanya Sims, were hand-forming hamburger patties and putting them on their personal grill, while ears of corn, still in their husks, slowly roasted on the park's grill.

Many members of Shade's family have spent time in the military, including two who are active-duty Air Force members serving in Germany and Korea.

Shade said her brother died of Agent Orange exposure after fighting in Vietnam.

"I like celebrating the idea that we're free," Shade said of the Fourth of July. "We're still a free country. They're not taking it from us."

Sims said her thoughts were with soldiers overseas who were unable to celebrate Independence Day with their families.

"If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be a free country," Shade added.

Eleanor Jefferson and her adult daughter, Tina Mills, had just finished the seventh hole on the park's miniature golf course. Mills guessed that her mother was winning; neither was keeping score.

Both said they opted not to swim because they don't feel comfortable in bathing suits in public pools. However, they said they enjoy spending a day at the park. She said the pair had already enjoyed their annual funnel cake and met new friends or caught up with old ones.

"We always love this," Jefferson said.

They also have a special place in their hearts for Independence Day.

Two of Jefferson's brothers were wounded in combat, and one was a prisoner of war for seven months before being rescued by fellow U.S. troops, she said.

"Our flag's out and everything for our boys fighting over there for us," Jefferson said. "I'm very patriotic and I have reason to be."

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