THE FOURTH AWAKENS

RED, WHITE & BLUE – PART 2

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This Fourth of July marked Sonya Trout’s first since returning to America from Australia.

She lived most of her life there, spent most of her Independence Days halfway ’round the world. For the last half-year, though, she’s been Kilgore’s Main Street & Special Event Coordinator, which put the bulk of the planning for Wednesday’s ‘Extravaganza’ on her shoulders.

With thousands of people turning out, food vendors lining up along Wood Street, children running back-and-forth, music blaring and fireworks blasting overhead, Trout basked in the energy at Kilgore City Park.

“It definitely gives you a great sense of pride in the United States and also in the community we live in, in Kilgore,” she said Friday, still coming down seeing stars Wednesday. “People are so proud of the place they live and proud of the freedoms they have. Just being able to join in that kind of celebration was really nice for me and for my husband.”

Turnout was hard to estimate, Trout said, suggesting as many as 5,000 people gathered at the park, especially for the 20-minute fireworks show that lit the skies to close the night. Even more were clustered throughout downtown Kilgore.

That’s the key element of such a community event, she added.

“It’s definitely the people: they give the energy, the community coming together” alongside vendors and volunteers, entertainers and entrepreneurs. It’s a sign of a thriving, healthy city: “Just all the people who are coming together to enjoy a couple of hours together at City Park.”

Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin’s wardrobe was an explosive mixture of red, white and blue, from hat, to shirt to socks and accessories.

“It was a nice, family event. That’s the comment that was made over and over,” he said. “There were more children than adults there – a lot of three-generation families.

“There were wheelchairs, there were walkers, there were canes, there were skateboards, there were bicycles, there were strollers … That’s what gives the city its identity, when we have families that can enjoy time together and be proud of what they’re a part of.”

The Fourth festival’s fare became a major theme.

“The response we had from the community for the food vendors was amazing,” Sonya said, with 11 lined up along Wood Street serving everything from handmade fries to soft serve ice cream, turkey legs, snow cones, grill staples and more. “The majority of them sold out completely. They were overwhelmed, and the people’s response was what great quality and what a great offering was available.

The event was large enough to have energy but still small enough to enjoy, said Brookshire’s Joseph Stephens, echoing praise for the night’s buffet.

“We had great variety, just any type of food you wanted was available there for you,” he said. “You were able to walk around and see people and fellowship and talk to people. It signifies our right to be free every day, to be able to come and go and to enjoy our friends and our family.”

For Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck, it’s a success to see Kilgore City Park overflow, and he’s pleased the second year of the Fourth of July Extravaganza drew so many revelers.

“That’s the way you’re supposed to spend your Fourth of July: there’s supposed to be family, fireworks, community. I’m just proud of Kilgore and all our incredible staff that made it happen,” he added, praising Kilgore’s police officers, firefighters, Main Street workers, street crews and other employees who pitched in to host residents and visitors. “I think that patriotism goes beyond just saluting the flag, that it starts much more granularly, that it starts with community. It’s about loving your community, loving the people around you that you live with.

“It was a celebration of all-great-things-America.”

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