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25th festival mixes songs, fireworks, fun

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More than fireworks will go pop Thursday evening at Columbus’ biggest summertime, high-in-the-sky, holiday exclamation point.

Part of the accompanying music will be going pop as well, including a nod to the Pharrell Williams hit “Happy.”

The free, 25th annual event draws an estimated 50,000 people along more than a half-mile stretch of Central Avenue at Columbus Regional Airport. The event is sponsored by QMIX radio station with support from Columbus Regional Health.

Music will be synchronized to exploding fireworks for nearly 25 minutes of sis, boom and ahhh.

“There’s such a great vibe there,” said Brittany Gray, operations manager at QMIX, which broadcasts the music on 107.3 FM. “It’s really a great adrenaline rush.”

But she said practicality enters the picture, too.

“You can bring your whole family — heck, you can bring your whole neighborhood — and it won’t cost you a thing,” Gray said. “We always make it a family-friendly event.”

Vendors will sell food and souvenirs on either side of Central Avenue in the vicinity of Ivy Tech Community College, but most activities are free.

“Nearly everybody who comes seems to have their own traditions,” Gray said, “or they have their own special place they go to watch.”

Columbus residents David and Kim Sweeney and their three children usually rope off a section of airport property big enough for their truck hours before the event. They return later, nearly a mile from the proceedings, for the show. That routine has been going on for about 10 years.

On a clear night, the fireworks display is visible as far away as Taylorsville, for example, about six miles to the north.

Columbus couple Jeff and Sue Stone tentatively plan to sit in their normal spot about a half-mile away, parking their truck close by the Northbrook Addition where they live near the airport.

“What they do is pretty cool,” Stone said. “What’s especially good is the music.”

Harrison College got involved in 2008 by popping popcorn and giving it away as a good will gesture to fireworks viewers parking on the college’s property. But the college’s fireworks festival offerings have grown, now including public use of Harrison’s restrooms, children’s games, a barbecue and a concert from popular local band The Faze.

“The numbers seem to be gradually going up every year,” Dean Melissa Parker said of Fourth of July activities on the college

property. “For me, it almost feels like I’m having people over to my house. I love hosting.”

World of Pentecost Church is into hosting, too. For several years, it has invited the public to its lot on Central Avenue slightly south of the fireworks launch site. Beginning at 7 p.m., volunteers will offer free bottled water, free snow cones and free children’s games. Plus, its homemade, pulled pork sandwiches that normally sell out will again be available for purchase.

“People have come to realize that we have one of the best viewing spots,” the church’s Alice Lange said.

Yet, Independence Day itself and beyond will feature even more festivities around the Columbus area.

Tipton Lakes on the city’s west side also has a free fireworks show Thursday night, although it is intended for subdivision association residents and their guests.

The 345-acre Ceraland Park southeast of Columbus will offer fireworks Friday evening. Admission to the park is $2 per person for those 4 and older. Its holiday schedule, from swimming to concerts to sports tournaments, has attracted 12,000 or more in recent years, according to Beth Dawson, the park’s business and marketing manager.

She said she expects attendance to grow even larger because the holiday falls on a weekend this year.

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