For 10-year-old Mackenzie Williamson, July 4 is a celebration about more than just fireworks.
“It’s about family time,” Mackenzie said, grinning up at her mother.
This was the first time for the little girl and her two brothers to see Fire in the Sky, Columbia’s annual Fourth of July celebration. The three watched jugglers, rebounded in an inflatable bounce house and showed off matching temporary American flag tattoos.
Columbia’s 67th Fire in the Sky celebration began at 6:30 p.m. and concluded with a dazzling fireworks display at 9:15 p.m. downtown.
Despite the damp weather, food trucks, live music, activities and families filled Flat Branch Park and Lucky’s parking lot where the fireworks were staged.
Martana Stemmons worked the 2 Odd Dawgs food stand, taking customers’ orders for traditional Independence Day fare — hot dogs and hamburgers.
The stand has been a small, family-owned business for the last two years, specializing in traditional American food with a twist. This was their first year at the event.
“We’re glad that the rain cleared,” Stemmons said.
Around Flat Branch Park, visitors could sample activities at booths that offered arts and crafts or they could paint a mural, zoom down an inflatable slide or navigate an obstacle course.
Charlotte Ries, a volunteer from Rock Bridge High School, helped kids decorate an American flag with stamps.
“It was really slow for a while because of the rain, but it’s definitely picked up since, which is really nice,” Ries said.
Susan Lotz came from Indianapolis to celebrate the holiday with her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren who live in Columbia. She said the kid-friendly activities drew herto the event.
She said she hoped the celebration would be an opportunity for Americans to come together rather than a political statement.
“It is a nice celebration of the country,” Lotz said, “It just seems that we have been so separated.”
Della Streaty-Wilhoit also came with her family. She sat next to her husband in a lawn chair, her head bobbing to live music in Flat Branch Park. She said she usually watched fireworks in her neighborhood or with her grandchildren in Jefferson City.
The Fourth of July is a day off, but it’s important to look at the history and independence for all people, said Streaty-Wilhoit, a new member of the Columbia School Board.
The Kansas City Street Band performed at the park during the afternoon, although after a delayed start because of the stormy weather.
“Playing for events like this is always special,” said Glenn Ward, the band’s drummer. “I’m happy to be a part of fellowship and friendship.”