Families from across the area staked their claims Wednesday to valuable real estate on the Savannah River for Augusta’s Independence Day celebration. All along Riverwalk Augusta, groups clustered in chairs and on blankets to await the fall of darkness and the explosions of color to illuminate the night sky.
Chris and Sarah Magliolo were enjoying grocery store sushi and a cold Landshark beer on a couple of quilts spread over the riverwalk bricks, while their three little ones, Braden, Ian and Ava Sophia munched on less exotic fare. Ava dined on chicken nuggets and Oreos moistened by ketchup.
Chris said the event was the first thing they did together as a family after arriving in Augusta. The Magliolos marked their third year in Augusta on July 1.
“This was the first place we could really be a family,” said Chris, a Marine staff sergeant stationed at Fort Gordon. He served two deployments to Afghanistan before moving to Georgia.
It was a family outing, but the significance of the holiday resonated with the Marine.
“I really prefer people to refer to it as Independence Day and not the Fourth of July,” he said.
Nearby, Jacqui and Alexcia Evans sat in folding chairs with their son Elijah, daughter Kayla and goddaughter Valencia. The couple both served in the Air Force before moving to Augusta, and said the holiday is a lot different for military men and women deployed overseas.
“You think of family,” said Jacqui, who served in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during his enlistment. He said the holiday was a regular workday for most military personnel in the Middle East. He recalled the only red, white and blue decorations he saw on the two Independence Days he was away from home were those in the camp mess hall.
“Out there, all you get is tan,” he said. “You get about 30 minutes to celebrate and it’s back to work.”
A few feet away sat Shuyi Li and Handong Ma with a few friends. Li, a medical researcher at Georgia Health Sciences University, said they enjoy the fireworks every year in Augusta, but declined to compare them with displays he used to see back home in his native China.
“We’ve been here for 10 years,” he said, smiling. “My 10-year-old son is an American citizen.”
The visitor to the riverwalk were among many thousands who turned out for celebrations all over the area.
In Grovetown, thousands turned out for the city’s annual July Fourth Barbecue at the Liberty Park Community Center. The event began 25 years ago and has grown ever since, with more than 3,000 meals served last year.
Patrons mingled with local politicians and enjoyed bluegrass tunes, pulled pork from Neal’s Barbecue and many gallons of iced tea.
Patriots Park, also in Columbia County, held its 18th annual July Fourth celebration, with arts, crafts, rides and live music from The Stephen Lee Band and The Vellotones during the early evening, followed by a fireworks display at dusk.
Staff writer Rob Pavey contributed to this article.