July 4th

Crystal Mink of Richmond and 7-year-old daughter Jasmyn dance Sunday evening to the music of Faded Blue during the City of Richmond’s annual 4th of July celebration at Lake Reba. The event drew a large crowd despite the city charging $5 per car for parking.

As the fireworks at Lake Reba concluded at 10:20 p.m. last night, the crowd cheered, whistled and screamed.

“If the city spent less than one-third of what it spent in years past, then they got a lot of bang for their buck,” said Mike Hale of Richmond, who watched the display with his two young daughters.

The city government’s much talked-about budget crunch forced the tourism commission to spend only $15,000 on fireworks this year. In recent years, $50,000 was spent on fireworks alone.

The crowd whistled, screamed, cheered and applauded as the 20-minute display ended in a crescendo that lit up the sky.

Little children, including Hale’s, gasped in exclamation as firework  stars of red, blue, green, yellow and silver burst over the park on Richmond’s east end.

The display’s first 15 minutes were not as dazzling as in recent years, and the bursts came only one or two at a time in the early going. They also went neither as high nor came in as rapid succession as previous years.

The conclusion, however, was nearly as dramatic as in the past.

The entertainment also was scaled back this year. Instead of a local band and a big-name headliner, two local bands — Josh Cosby and the Bluegrass Drifters, followed by Faded Blue — entertained from 6 to 10 p.m.

The bands performed on flatbed trailer with only eight spot lights trained on then instead of the more elaborately lighted stages of recent years.

The crowd was more widely dispersed across the park this year than last, but probably numbered more than 15,000.

Starting at 6 p.m., the city began charging $5 per car  for parking, and took in $9,000 for the evening. If each of the 1,800 cars that paid to park contained four people, they accounted for 7,200.

Richmond Tourism Director Lori Murphy-Tatum estimated that about 5,000 people were already inside the park at 6 p.m., most at either the Paradise Cove Aquatic Center or Gibson Bay Golf Course.

Judging by the number who walked out of the park, a few thousand more left their vehicles outside the park at businesses that were closed for the holiday.

Vendors did well. A funnel cake vendor sold out, Tatum said. Another was still selling at 11:30 p.m.

Jake Patrick of Jake’s Lemonade said this was his best year since coming to Lake Reba seven or eight years ago. The first year was the best, but this year was almost as good, he said.

Those asked how they felt about having to pay to park this year said they did not mind.

“It was well worth it,” said Carrie  Lakes, who attended the celebration with a family group that numbered 15. Some came from as far as Cincinnati.

The Lakes said they had attended the Lake Reba celebration since it began in the mid-1990s.

Rhonda Crowe of Ravenna in Estill County came to Lake Reba for with family group of 14. This was their sixth July 4 celebration in Lake Reba, she said.

Ryan and Ashley Mills of Berea watched the fireworks with their two sons, Tyler, 5, and Mickey, 4. Ashley, who is expecting a daughter in September, said she had been coming to Richmond’s July 4 celebration at Lake Reba since she was a child.

J.D. and Desarae Scott dressed their three daughters in red dresses with white stars for the celebration. Sidney, 9, Tabitha, 8, and Brandi, 7, put on a fireworks display of their own as they danced around with sparklers. The children attend Kirksville Elementary.

The Scotts said they have been coming to Lake Reba  for July 4 since before Sidney was born.

The patriotic celebration held a special significance for Miranda Riley of Irvine. Her husband is deployed to Afghanistan with a Richmond-based National Guard unit.

“We love the 4th of July,” she said.

Riley and 14 other family members made the trip from Estill County for the celebration.

The group included an “adopted” family member, Sabrina Koenig of Cologne, Germany, and her husband, Lars.

Sabrina came to Irvine 11 years ago as a high school exchange student. This was her second time to be a Lake Reba for July 4. She was here in 2003 and planned this trip to coincide with Independence Day.

“We love it here,” Koenig said, “and this is where we’d like to retire.”

The event’s budget was $28,000, Tatum said. Donations, including $5,000 from the Madison Fiscal Court, totaled $10,500. Other donations came from local businesses.  The $9,000 in parking fees and a state tourism grant of $9,000 helped cover the costs, including overtime for police and park staff.

Any excess funds will be used for the city’s Pottery Festival in September.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmond  register.com or at 624-6622.

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