A Fourth to remember

American flags were much in demand along the parade route practically everyone had one or was handed one, and red-white-and-blue clothing was visible for blocks. - Cynthia Woolbright
American flags were much in demand along the parade route practically everyone had one or was handed one, and red-white-and-blue clothing was visible for blocks.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

While clouds teased festival-goers, rain on Thursday was but a sprinkle here and there. Even the wind seemed to somehow know to stay away from Oak Harbor’s best Fourth of July celebration ever, judging by the feedback from the men, women and children who crowded City Beach Park from immediately following the parade through the conclusion of the city’s fireworks display.

“Everyone was just having a great time,” said Linda Bruner, a Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce employee, on Friday. “It was just a lovely day.”

In a loud and swift swoop over Pioneer Way, a fly-over by two EA-6B Prowlers and one P-3 patrol plane opened the eyes of parade watchers to caravan of color and patriotic fun.

Colorguard led the way for crews from the Oak Harbor Fire Department, Fire Protection District 2, and the Outlying Field Crash Crew, who met a warm reception from the crowd.

And the popular item in demand on the parade route? The American flag, of course. If they weren’t carried in, adorning shirts, or painted on faces, they were eagerly snatched up from organizations that passed out the red, white and blue.

“The Fourth of July is important, because following the terrorist attack, we need to understand our freedom,” said 8-year-old Megan Coalson of Oak Harbor.

Thousands turned out for the parade, the carnival and to visit the vendor booths set up along the path at City Beach Park. Additionally, the Rubber Ducky Regatta and the organized games for children provided entertainment throughout the day.

Gene and Dorothy Rice kept track of grandchildren, 8 year-old Chelsea, 6-year-old T.J., and 5-year-old Ryan at the family games. The grandkids and their parents came from Marysville to visit their Oak Harbor resident grandparents for the Old Fashioned Fourth activities.

The crowds settled onto blankets and lawnchairs in the grassy park as dusk approached, and a team of volunteers that had been working steadily since 7 a.m. busied themselves with the final preparations for the pyrotechnic display. A small contingent of military personnel waited along the sidelines for the moment the director cued them front and center to conduct what turned out to be a spectacular raising of the American flag.

Six U.S. Navy Sea Bees had practiced three days to raise the flagpole Iwo Jima-style, an act synchronized to patriotic music.

The crowd roared once the flag was in place, brightly illuminated against a black sky, while the six Sea Bees, in full combat gear, slowly and deliberately saluted the banner, while “rockets” exploded and took to the skies behind the stars and stripes.

The ensuing fireworks display, choreographed to music, was both energizing and sombering. The accompanying music, something never before included in a fireworks display in Oak Harbor, changed from military marches with rousing beats, to patriotic songs to remind viewers of those who died in the 226-year history of the nation, fighting for freedom.

An added element to this Fourth of July remembrance are those who died in the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11. Woven into the middle of the 18-minute pyrotechnic production was the music from the firefighter movie “Backdraft,” which, in the movie, accompanied the scene where firefighters died while fighting a blaze.

When the lights in the skies flashed for the last, bright final moment over City Beach Park, families gathered the blankets, barbeques, lawn chairs, children and their new, Old Fashioned Family Fourth memories.

Staff intern Cynthia Woolbright contributed to this story.

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