Originally created 07/05/96

Barbecue, fireworks and family form fine Fourth



There's a very simple recipe, really, for enjoying the Fourth of July.

Start first with sustenance.

"You have to have something barbecue," said Nancy Marshall of North Augusta. Her sauce-smothered entree for Thursday was chicken.

In Aiken, Melvin Johnson, Louise Carter and Ms. Carter's five children were stirring up their own fun as one of the few families at the Odell Weeks Recreation Center Thursday afternoon.

"I guess everybody else stayed in but I had to get out," Mr. Johnson said as he tended a barbecue grill. "We're just kind of chillin'."

Then add a dash of pyrotechnics.

Mrs. Marshall had a firm grip on another Fourth of July essential, a brown paper bag filled with fireworks just purchased from the Wacky Wayne's fireworks store in North Augusta. Inside at 5 p.m., 57 people packed the tiny store - and similar stores across North Augusta - all buying as much firepower as they could muster.

Next, sprinkle a generous heaping of family time.

"Normally we barbecue," said Willis Lewis. "But we decided to do something different today. We wanted to do something by ourselves."

The Lewises opted for quality time rather than a gathering with several families. Mr. Lewis, his wife Lola and their children, Sabray, 12, Lacora, 9, Joshua, 4, and Lexus, 2, sat in the shade offered by the Arnold Palmer statue near the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta.

"I just enjoy watching the boats," said Sabray. "I like the ones that bounce up and down."

Neighborhood pools were teaming with children and families across the Augusta area Thursday as some neighborhoods hosted their own July Fourth parades and picnics. At night, at Riverwalk, families stood arm-in-arm, necks craned skyward to see the fireworks.

Now bake at 91 degrees.

"It's not real hot," said Clayton English, 27, sweating slightly in an Uncle Sam costume atop the Eighth Street levee. Augusta's high of 91 degrees Thursday was comfortable compared with July 4 in recent years.

Each year, as part of the official Riverwalk celebrations, Mr. English dons his homemade Uncle Sam outfit: a red-and-white-striped jacket with a blue patch and white stars, red-and-white-striped pants, patent black shoes and an American flag top hat.

His bushy brown eyebrows and goatee frosted white for the day, Mr. English's towering frame seemed wilted in the late-afternoon sun as he trudged to the top of the levee. His thin frame looked 6'4" tall, but his top hat and long pants gave him the illusion of walking on stilts.

"I started out doing Halloween night," Mr. English said. But, since 1991, he's been one of the ingredients to the Riverwalk celebrations of July Fourth.

Top off the dish with a dazzling display of nighttime fireworks hovering above a reflective Savannah River, with the perfect seasonings playing in the background: Ray Charles' magical Georgia On My Mind.

Police estimated more than 65,000 crowded Riverwalk to see the fireworks when the show started at 9:30 p.m. As it ended 20 minutes later, the mammoth crowded erupted into cheers, whistles and applause.

At least 1,000 to 1,200 people watched the 30-minute fireworks display at Little River Marina on Thurmond Lake, said Pam Bugg, the marina's owner.

First aid workers at Riverwalk had a brief scare on their hands when the nearly cheek-to-cheek crowd at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater blocked their efforts to reach a woman who'd fallen at the bottom and broken a leg. The woman, whose name was not released, was taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital just before the fireworks started.

Staff Writers Gregory Patterson and Michael Cass contributed to this article.