Just before organizers lit the fuse on Columbus Regional Health presents QMIX Musical Fireworks 27, “Star-Spangled Night,” onlooker Dave Shelley offered his own big bang theory about the event’s appeal.
“I like to feel the vibration in my chest,” he said.
It seemed to matter little whether that was actually from exploding pyrotechnics or old-fashioned American pride Friday and the beginning of the Fourth of July weekend. Shelley stood along Central Avenue on the lawn of The Sanctuary amid a lively throng that belied the church’s name.
Around him, children laughed and wielded lengthy glow sticks as if they were lightsabers. Adults lounged in lawn chairs and feasted on pulled pork. One young woman strolled through the scene with an American flag shawl pulled around her in the 72-degree, post-sunset cool breeze.
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Once the show began, the 25-minute extravaganza boomed the sounds of artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Whitney Houston.
Festivities began long before Zambelli Fireworks of Pennsylvania made the night come alive with colorful bombs bursting in air. A crowd began gathering by late afternoon in the parking lot of Ivy Tech Community College on Central Avenue for an event said to typically attract some 50,000 throughout the area. People, food booths, children’s bounce houses and games turned the place into a patriotic potpourri.
Adding to the effect, a huge America flag billowed from near the top of a crane across Central Avenue. The banner’s stripes danced a bit in the breeze to QMIX’s pop tunes audible from the local radio station’s nearby promotional tent.
Standing out amid the stream of people was Elizabeth Eva and children Issabel and Issiah, all decked in red, white and blue shirts and related apparel. Mom sported mini face-paint flags on each cheek, and Issiah wore what looked like red, white and blue headgear from an oversized troll doll.
“This is my favorite time of year,” mom said with a big grin. “I’m very proud this country and those who have served.”
Along the row of vendors, the smell of pizza, popcorn and pulled pork mingled with the aroma of Chinese and chicken. At DiVine Family BBQ, business, while not quite smoking, was picking up three hours before the fireworks began to sizzle.
“We’re hoping for it to be a little better than last year,” owner Tim Hamilton said.
Nearby, Tonie Hoffman and her family moved among eventgoers while carrying their their pair of teacup yorkies. Brown-haired Ozzie craned his neck eagerly to give greeters impromptu kisses while a fuzzy black Daisy was happy to allow strolling people to stop and pet her.
“They love to watch the fireworks from our laps,” Hoffman said. “And sometimes they fall asleep.”
Keeping everyone wide-eyed, magician Travis Easterling attracted a larger crowd than last year with a mix of illusions, including placing sharp-edged, metal wedges into a box holding one of his assistants. Plus, he drew laughs when he took audience member Steve Matthews’ 50-dollar bill and turned it into a dollar — before waiting quite a bit to change it back.
“I have absolutely no idea how he did that,” a baffled and chuckling Matthews said.
Amber Halstead arrived at the gathering at the college with her three daughters, her sister and her niece. They ate ice cream and snow cones and laughed about what attracts them most.
“The food and the fireworks — in that order,” Halstead said.
They were prepared to stake out their standard viewing spot near Parkside Elementary School.
“The fireworks end up right over top of us,” Halstead said.
Amid all those into fireworks frenzy was 7-year-old Jerrie Jones. Sure, he acknowledged that the light-and-music show can be fun. But mom Rosey Stevens put her youngster’s perspective into words.
“He likes the bouncy houses better,” Stevens said. “The fireworks last a few minutes. The bouncy houses last almost all day.”
What: Ceraland Park fireworks.
When: 10 p.m. Monday with a variety of other activities throughout the day.
Where: 3989 S. County Road 525E, Columbus.
Admission: For those without season passes: $2 per person ages 4 and older.
Expected crowd: 10,000 to 12,000 people.
Information: 812-377-5849 or visit ceraland.org.