From 1969 to 1975, Tommy Leonard and David Kinsey served in the Marine Corps together, traveling from bases in Parris Island, S.C., to as far away as San Diego.
Four decades have come and gone, but each Independence Day the Augusta natives assemble at a place they call home.
“This day is about freedom, and there’s no place I’d rather celebrate than by my boat on the Savannah River,” Kinsey said. “It’s hard to top this.”
Augusta’s annual fireworks show didn’t kick off until 9:30 p.m. Friday, but Kinsey began cooking ribs and gazing at river traffic more than 14 hours before the grand finale.
“Tommy and I have been celebrating the Fourth on this river for 10 years,” Kinsey said. “We’re pretty much right under the (Fifth Street) bridge, so there’s not a better spot to watch fireworks.”
Leonard and Kinsey were two of thousands to join the celebration, which began with afternoon concerts and activities at Augusta Common.
Yolanda Greenwood, the special events manager of Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities Department, expected 20,000 people to show up.
“It’s just great to see so many people in the community come together and celebrate a night like this,” Greenwood said. “(Putting on this event) is something we love to do.”
IN ADDITION TO the Augusta celebration, thousands also attended Fourth of July festivities in Columbia County.
Steve Grover arrived early to grab a spot right in front of Evans Towne Center Park’s main stage.
For the first time in the event’s 20-year history, Columbia County was celebrating Independence Day in downtown Evans, instead of the more spacious Patriots Park off William Few Parkway.
Grover, along with his wife, Tiffany; 15-year-old son, Tyler; and 8-year-old daughter, Briana, said they were not taking any chances of having their view of fireworks obstructed.
“I’m curious to see how this park will hold everyone,” Grover said.
Though officials said there were concerns of accommodating the expected 10,000 people for the celebration, event coordinator Stacie Adkins said she believed those in attendance would be better served at Evans Towne Center Park.
The facility provides a more central location for the event than Patriots Park, where Adkins said organizers had to split into two areas to make the Independence Day celebration work.
Plus, she said, Evans Towne Center Park’s multiple stages, numerous entrance and exit routes, and modern facilities make it easier for event organizers to provide quality entertainment, control traffic and decorate the park with flags and banners.
Adkins estimated that the celebration offered more than 200 entertainers, a large fireworks show, 40 vendors and a dozen rides. That’s not counting the park’s two playgrounds and splashpad, which many adults said was the best benefit of having the show at Evans Towne Center Park.
“It’s more convenient,” said Jasmine Childress, as she watched her two grandsons, Carson, 3, and Braxton, 2, play in the splashpad.
Childress and her friend, Steve Pruitt, have participated in the Fort Gordon and Augusta Signers celebrations, but said Columbia County’s event was nice for family fun.
“It’s good to see people come together,” she said.