Independence Day Blast!
Near-perfect weather brings a big turnout for boat parade and fireworks show
By Brent Maze
Officials at Russell Lands wanted to wow the crowd at its 10th annual Fourth of July Blast Concert and Fireworks Show.
Numerous times through the 25-minute fireworks show, the more than 3,000 people in Lake Martin Amphitheater cheered while about 3,000 boats anchored in the Kowaliga basin behind the venue blared their horns for the show.
Robert Gunn, director of special events and social media for Russell Lands and emcee of Sunday’s event, said they were hoping for a bigger “wow” factor from the audience this year. He got to hear just that.
The audience experienced nearly 3,000 shells, a good number of which were shot during the breathtaking finale when the night sky lit up with nearly every color in the spectrum.
“It’s great to be here (onstage) and hear the audience in the amphitheater cheer and then hear all the boats out there blaring their horns as well,” Gunn said. “It makes it all worth it when you hear it from both sides.”
Dadeville resident Joe Chambliss said his family has been coming out to the fireworks show each year for 30 years, whether by boat or by land. Sunday night, he and his wife came out to the show with their children and five grandchildren.
“We’ve been coming here for 30 years and this was the best we’ve ever seen,” Chambliss said. “We just appreciate Russell Lands putting on this great event. There’s no better way to celebrate our country’s independence than right here.”
His daughter, Paige Myers, drove all the way from Mobile to be with her family. She described the show as fantastic.
“They absolutely achieved the ‘wow’ effect,” she said.
Before the fireworks began, Rock Solid, the All-State Youth Ensemble for the Alabama Baptist Convention, kicked off the show with “The Star Spangled Banner” and a cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” with a few Roll Tides mixed in.
They then played mostly secular music with a few Christian songs.
“They’ve only been together for three days,” Gunn told the crowd. “Just imagine how good they’ll be in a few years.”
Following Rock Solid was the traditional hula hoop and twist concert, and Russell Lands chairman and CEO Ben Russell even competed in the twist contest. The winners of the hula contest were 12-year-old Taylor Goodwin for the 12 and under division and Abigail Oliver for the adult division. Brantley Calhoun, 4, won the 12 and under twist competition while Adam Moncrief took the over 12 division.
Nationwide Coverage, a Birmingham-based cover band that opened for AquaPalooza last year, took the stage and played songs that ranged from Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” to Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.”
Local gropu Homeland sang patriotic songs including “God Bless the U.S.A.” and Elvis’ “An American Trilogy” finishing with the gospel tune “How Great Thou Art.” The male trio then sang “The Star Spangled Banner” as the stage rolled away and the fireworks show began.
Once the fireworks concluded, Nationwide Coverage took the stage once again with Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”and played another 45 minutes for the crowd that remained behind instead of heading out to get stuck in traffic.
Gunn said everything went well, from the crowd’s reaction to the show to the unusually less-humid weather.
“We couldn’t have asked for better weather,” Gunn said. “I woke up early this morning and it almost felt a little cool. It was just about as perfect as you can get for July.
“We had a great time putting this event on and we hope everyone enjoyed the show.”
The fireworks show followed an equally successful boat parade. Russell Marine’s 20th annual Fourth of July Boat Parade included about 30 boats decorated in red, white and blue.
“It was wonderful. We had a really good time,” said Bo Bierley, manager of Kowaliga Marina, where the parade began.
Prizes were awarded to the top two boats in four categories. First prize won a $150 gift certificate to any Russell Marine marina, while second place won a $75 gift certificate.
In the tallest flag category, Bob and Sandy Pope won first place and Greg Crews won second place. H.R. Little took home the top prize in the largest flag category, while Keith and Cathy Milam were the runners up. In the most patriotic category, the boat of Jim and Joyce Reeves and the McKeen family won first place and Jack Rainer’s boat won second place. In the most creative category, The boat of Jim Watson, David Stokes and Winn Kelly won first and the boat of David Allen won second.