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Park hopping with July Fourth festivities

July 04, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Officials said the big crowds usually don't start rolling in until about 6 p.m., but the July 4 celebration at War Memorial Park was in high gear by mid-afternoon Saturday.

A family reunion was under way at a picnic pavilion, where the group of more than 35 people held hands around a smoking grill to give thanks for their food.

"Amen!" the crowd yelled in unison at the end of the prayer.

The reunion used to be held in a backyard, but family members decided to move it to the park, partly because of the big July 4 celebration, said Dottie Johnson of Martinsburg.

"There's just so much going on. Steve Catlett does such a good job," Johnson said.

Catlett is the executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board and he was at the park Saturday overseeing the day's activities.

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The public was invited to the park for the July Fourth holiday to enjoy a day of picnicking, miniature golf, swimming, mini train rides, pony rides, food vendors and entertainment, including Stoney Creek Bluegrass Band and the Uncle Bean Magic Show.

The big draw was the annual fireworks show, which was to begin at 9:30 p.m.

Catlett said the crowd around the park concession stands is usually "elbow to elbow" as the fireworks get started.

That area of the park was relatively quiet at mid-afternoon, but crowds were rolling in on a hilltop where picnic pavilions are situated.

At one of the pavilions, Colette Robinson was pinning up decorations for a party celebrating her daughter's acceptance to East Tennessee State University. Iesha Robinson graduated from Martinsburg High School in May and was awarded a full scholarship to attend the university, her mother said.

At the party, which was expected to attract about 50 people, the group also was celebrating with two of Iesha's cousins, who graduated from Martinsburg High and are planning to attend college.

Colette Robinson reflected on the times of juggling responsibilities and raising her daughter as she decorated the pavilion.

"It was hard work," Robinson said.

The park's pool was full of swimmers, and an inflatable bounce jittered as children jumped inside.

Others lounged around in shaded areas, like Ben Denny, who was plucking a banjo while sitting on a wall.

Denny, who was waiting for a friend with a guitar to arrive, said he likes living in Martinsburg.

"My neighborhood's a little iffy sometimes, but it's good enough for me," Denny said.

Catlett said as many as 5,000 people have been at the park in past years to watch the fireworks, which used to be launched from the park.

But when houses were built too close to set off fireworks there, the launching site was moved to a field along Old Mill Road, Catlett said.

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