A half-hour fireworks display soared above the grounds of Hope Municipal Airport Saturday night. It may not have been July 4, but the makings of an experience in the display of patriotism were all there from the time spectators began arriving about 6 p.m., when the gates opened, to when the last rocket red glare had gone off just before 10 p.m.
Most spectators interviewed said it was indeed the fireworks that drew them to Saturday night’s event. And when asked why Independence Day is still worth celebrating, most cited their personal freedoms. Some also said they valued the occasion because it allowed for families to get together.
In the hours before the fireworks began their 9:30 p.m. launch, musicians played country-tinged rock on a stage lined up just where the first runway begins. Don Still, current Hope mayor and owner of Still’s Auto, who has overseen the fireworks display for 15 years, noticed that the band played “Purple Rain” just before the fireworks were to start, just as they played it last year.
Still said preparations for the show had begun two days ago and it involves a number of people. “The setup crew is usually four to five, and then we’ve got the shoot crew. We can do it pretty well with six or seven people.”
The show used to take place in the front yard of United Methodist Church, but the crowds attending finally became too large. So the municipal airport, which Still calls a gem for the city, became the setting, and Still says it is a good one for the purpose. “What a great place to do it. You can see so well. It’s funny, the first year we did it we had a lot of people call City Hall to find out where the airport was.”
After several shows over the years, this is likely no longer the case. A crowd of several hundred had arrived by the time the fireworks started, most staying in their cars to watch through their windshields while tuning in to a small radio station broadcasting the accompanying music, but many sitting in portable chairs around the stage to enjoy the show in the surprisingly comfortable night air.
Still said the cost of the show is now covered by the Hope Parks, Recreation and Tourism Commission and is funded by sales taxes: “This is probably a $12 to $15,000 show. It’s a good show. And I’m just glad we can do it for the community.”