WILKES-BARRE — It was a fun, old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration at Kirby Park Thursday, complete with snow cones, fresh-squeezed lemonade and funnel cakes.
And the night capped off with a very modern fireworks display that left the crowd oohing and ahhing.
Hundreds of people lined the levee system and grassy fields at Kirby Park after enjoying a day of family picnics, carnival rides, chocolate-covered cheesecake, dozens of vendors and a performance by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic.
Area residents participated in similar, if smaller-scale, celebrations across the region. A parade and ceremony, for example, were held in Wright Township; the event was expected to include an appearance by Katie McGinty, the Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania.
The Mynsavage family, of Wilkes-Barre, attends the Independence Day celebration at Kirby Park every year. “My favorite part is the rides,” said 11-year-old Amanda Mynsavage, while enjoying the day with her mother, Dennice.
This year, Amanda, who was finally tall enough to ride the Sizzler, the Tornado and the Tempest, said she hoped to get on all of them.
“We’ll see,” her mother said. “This whole thing is awesome. We love the fireworks.”
Aesha Abdulazim, 6, of Wilkes-Barre, rode a pony for the first time Thursday, as she waved to her mother and younger brother.
Micah McDonald, 7, of Plains Township, took a spin on the Chinese swings, dramatically falling to the ground when exiting the ride. “It was ok,” Micah shrugged.
Khadijah Murphy-Epps, 17, MJ Epps, 14, and Alexis Footman, 16, all of Kingston, sat on a hill watching the day’s activities, anticipating the evening’s fireworks display. “It’s dead now,” Murphy-Epps said around 5:30 p.m., who noted it was her second year at the Kirby Park event, and that next year she’ll know to come later.
But, that wasn’t the case for Christopher Snarski and Amanda Lefort, of Wilkes-Barre. “We came early to get a good parking spot,” Lefort said.
This year’s fireworks display was organized by Advanced Pyrotechnics.
The Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn law firm had representatives on hand at the park as part of its HKQ Kids project, handing out free bike helmets for its sixth year. “Safety is our first concern and cost savings is our second,” HKQ Kids project manager Sue Greenfield said. “Some families have five kids, and five helmets can equal the cost of a grocery list. So, we’re glad we can help.”
During the first three hours of distributing helmets, a line wrapped around Kirby Park and volunteers worked non-stop, Greenfield said. The crowd started to diminish in the late afternoon, she said, but picked up when onlookers began to gather for the fireworks.
Every year, HKQ Kids hands out 1,500 helmets to children ages 12 and under. All helmets meet U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards, Greenfield said. Samara and Janessa Frazier, 7 and 6, picked out their free helmets while at the park with their mother, Megan Campbell.
Samara said she and her sister would test their new helmets just as soon as the fireworks ended.
The audience at Kirby Park enjoyed a performace by Katy Williams during this year’s pre-fireworks philharmonic performance. Williams is a soloist who has performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Opera. The performance also featured guest violinist Jenny Oaks Baker.
Mountain Top’s celebration began with a parade along state route 309 and included a ceremony at the Wright Township Municipal Building. A flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony were held at the Veterans Memorial, and in true patriotic form, Col. Roger Schwartz and Michael Stair explained the Declaration of Independence.
If you missed an opportunity to view fireworks Thursday, take heart. Wright Township will hold its annual fireworks display at 6:30 p.m. today at the township’s municipal park.