Fort Gordon kicks off Independence Day with annual Third of July celebration

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY

Thursday, July 3, 2014 11:28 PM
Last updated Friday, July 4, 2014 9:17 AM
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Watching thunderstorms roll in, Pvt. Landon Black stood at Fort Gordon’s Barton Field holding his 1-year-old daughter and a funnel cake.

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Nigel Willis holds his daughter, Giselle Willis, 6, on his shoulders as they watch the fireworks.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Nigel Willis holds his daughter, Giselle Willis, 6, on his shoulders as they watch the fireworks.

See a slideshow of photos from the event

“This is what it’s all about,” Black said Thursday afternoon. “I’ve only been stationed here since May 25, but celebrating July 4 on a military base is really special. My daughter Charlotte was born about this time last year, so this is our first true Fourth of July as a family.”

But as rain fell, Black and others were forced to pause their celebration.

“The worst thing we can have on a day like this is lightning,” Fort Gordon public affairs coordinator Buz Yarnell said. “We can’t do anything if there’s lightning in the area.”

And lightning came.

For more than an hour, vendors and carnival rides shut down, before rain dispersed around 4:30 p.m.

“The humidity was so bad Wednesday that I expected there to be a few storms,” Yarnell said. “I’m just thankful they came before the firework show.”

Fort Gordon’s annual Third of July fireworks have become a staple to the Augusta community with thousands of spectators taking in the event each year.

Thursday was no different.

“I’ve been here for three years and there’s no question this is an amazing event for our community,” U.S. Army marketing assistant Crystal Tyson said. “Not only are the fireworks great, but the environment on the base is incredible throughout the entire day.”

According to Yarnell, the Independence Day extravaganza is Fort Gordon’s largest event of the year in terms of outside attendance.

“It’s something we take a great deal of pride in,” he said. “If this isn’t the best firework show in the area, it definitely ranks up there.”

For local resident Heather Addis, Thursday marked her fifth Independence Day celebration at Fort Gordon.

“Fourth of July is such an important day for our military and being the wife of a service member just makes it even more special,” she said. “Fort Gordon’s fireworks are the best around, but seeing so many people celebrate together on this military base is my favorite part.”

Before the night-capping fireworks show, there was a military talent show and several concerts, including the U.S. Army Signal Corps Band, which performed for about an hour.

Christina Whiting, whose husband, Matthew, is stationed at Fort Gordon, made sure her two children got to enjoy the festivities.

“Bradley and Vanessa have been talking about this all week,” Whiting said. “I can’t believe how much there is to do – the rides, the food, the fireworks. It’s just so much fun. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.”

HOLIDAY EVENTS

Honoring Georgia’s Signers of the Declaration of Independence: 9 a.m. today, Signers Monument, Greene Street in front of Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building; hanbyj@aol.com or (302) 824-0186

Patriotic Bicycle, Golf Cart and Pet Parade: 9:30 a.m. today, Mistletoe State Park, 3725 Mistletoe Road, Appling;; $5 parking; (706) 541-0321, gastateparks.org/Mistletoe

Augusta Bel Canto Performing American Stories in Song: 1:30 p.m. today, Augusta Museum of History Rotunda, 560 Reynolds St.; free; augustamuseum.org

Columbia County Fourth of July Celebration: 2 p.m. today, Evans Towne Center Park, 7016 Evans Town Center Blvd.; fireworks; free; evanstownecenterpark.com

The City of Augusta Independence Day Celebration: 4-10 p.m. today, Augusta Common, 836 Reynolds St.; fireworks 9:30 p.m. at Fifth Street Bridge; free; (706) 821-1754, augustaga.gov

Augusta GreenJackets: game at 7 p.m. today; Lake Olmstead Stadium; Game at 7 p.m. Saturday; Gates open at 5:30 p.m. for pre-game Independence Day Bash; fireworks after both games; greenjacketsbaseball.com

The Riverwalk Series: Star-Spangled Fourth: 7:30 p.m. today, St. Paul’s Church, 605 Reynolds St.; Independence Day Chorus and Orchestra; $20, ages 17 and younger free; Riverwalk fireworks display follows; catered; $15; (706) 722-3463; riverwalkseries.com

Thurmond Lake Sail & Power Squadron Independence Day Celebration: Fireworks after dark today, Plum Branch Yacht Club; celebration 10 a.m. Saturday, Dorn Boating Facility, 272 Chamberlain Ferry Road, McCormick, S.C.; boat parade 10:30 a.m.; beach party noon to 4 p.m., Savannah Lakes Marina Beach; shag party Saturday evening, Plum Branch Yacht Club; tlsps.org

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