Revelers arrive early for fireworks at Memorial Stadium in Columbia

Saturday, July 4, 2009 | 6:57 p.m. CDT; updated 7:05 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 4, 2009

COLUMBIA — Several groups of people braved the late-afternoon rain on Saturday to start the celebration early and get a good spot for the fireworks display at Memorial Stadium. People were setting up in a parking lot across the street from the stadium, preparing tents, lawn chairs and grills.

Members of a group calling itself the "Weekend Poets" came out at about 3:30 p.m. to get ready for the festivities. The friendship group meets for social outings, fundraising and volunteer work, and members said this was its second year attending the fireworks show at the stadium. Fifteen members were drinking beer, margaritas and gin and tonics while waiting for the night's festivities to begin.

John and Kathy Nielsen and their daughter, Gabby, arrived at about 4:30 p.m. from Fulton to set up for the evening. As the rain came to an end, they got a small charcoal grill going to cook hot dogs for dinner.

“Last year, we parked way back behind the Hearnes Center,” John Nielsen said. “This year we wanted to come early to get a better spot.”

The Nielsens said they planned to go into the stadium at about 6:30 p.m., but would then come back outside to watch the fireworks.

Many groups, including the Poets and a group from Pilot Grove, planned to watch the fireworks from outside the stadium.

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