And celebrate some more

Fun for some, work for others
Tuesday, July 5, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:27 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Feel like a kid again

Cassie Acton knows her way around Columbia’s fireworks stands.

“We’ve been to every fireworks stand, we’re just buying more and more,” Acton said as she walked around the Fireworks World tent.

Acton and her friend Kelly Wetherhote have bought about $200 worth of fireworks.

“I like to buy the expensive ones to see if they’re worth the money, but she’s the frugal one who likes to buy a bunch of smaller ones,” Wetherhote said.

Wetherhote said she hasn’t shot off fireworks since she was a kid, so now she gets to go crazy. For Wetherhote, fireworks help remind her that Fourth of July is more than a day off of work.

“There’s no historical element attached to it anymore except when you have patriotic music with the fireworks. Maybe for that moment, people can really feel comfortable together as Americans, being packed into one small place watching the fireworks,” Wetherhote said. “Then it’s a mad stampede rush to get to the cars.”

Picnic in the park

At 1 p.m., black clouds were threatening to end celebrations at Cosmopolitan Park. Seven-month-old Eittahj-jhne Marteen didn’t care.

With a bright smile and sparkling eyes, she broke out her best dance moves on a picnic table while Mariah Carey music backed her up.

Eittahj-jhne was participating for the first time in what has become a tradition for her family — a Fourth of July get-together.

“We’re celebrating freedom with our family,” said Shalon Ross, 24.

This was the fifth year the family came together for the holiday, with some members traveling from as far away as Kansas City and St. Louis.

The family reserved a shelter at Cosmo Park so they could spend the day barbecuing a wide assortment of meats — everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to baby back ribs, steak and pork chops — and enjoying each other’s company.

Ross said it took the family only a week to organize the festivities.

“We’re short-notice people,” she said.

Just another work day

While many people had the day off from work, someone had to be behind the counter of the businesses that stayed open.

Hollywood Theater usher Erica Crawford said people coming to see the summer’s big-budget blockbusters appeared more cheerful because of the holiday.

“People seem happier,” she said, noting that she got more thank yous than usual.

With so many businesses closed for the holiday, the only thing missing from Ninth Street’s ghost-town feeling was tumbleweed. “A lot of people left town,” said Scott Southwick, manger of Sparky’s Ice Cream.

But staying open wasn’t completely fruitless.

“Downtown’s pretty dead, but a lot of businesses are closed, so it averages out,” Southwick said. “People looking for something to do are coming in. It’s been an average Monday.”

He said sending out Sparky’s bicycle vendor during the day would be a waste, but planned to catch revelers in the evening.

For some, it was just another workday.

“No one else wants to work, and I don’t care. I used to enjoy holidays, but not any more,” said Jason Stacy, working the register at the Petro-mart on the corner of College and Paris Streets. “I work every holiday — Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

Stacy wasn’t scheduled for Monday, but volunteered anyway. “Time and a half,” he said with a smile.

A sparkling holiday

Nneka Okoye, 22, steps inside the fireworks tent near Interstate 70.

“What’s your cheapest fireworks?” she asks, looking at tables stacked high with fireworks.

“Sparklers. Do you like sparklers?” asked Jeff Tosh.

“Yeah. I like the really small and little ones,” Okoye said.

Okoye said she usually goes to the Lake of the Ozarks for the Fourth of July, but not this year.

“I have to save money,” she said.

Okoye’s moving to Atlanta next month to start a new job. She graduated with a biology degree from MU in May.

“Just four or five us will be here. We’ll be hanging out, rehashing old stories, drinking; it’ll be fun,” Okoye said as Tosh put Roman candles, Tazmanian devils and sparklers in her bag.

Neighborhood bonding

Columbia resident John Dilhoit picks out a few small fireworks with his wife and daughter at Fireworks World. Dilhoit said he looked forward to relaxing around the house.

“We’re doing as little as possible,” Dilhoit said.

Everyone in his neighborhood buys fireworks, and at about 10 p.m. they all stand at the end of their driveways and shoot them off, he said.

“It’s nice because our houses sit back from the road, and we don’t get to see our neighbors that much,” Dilhoit said.

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