By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Thousands of visitors descended on Oneonta’s Neahwa Park for Fourth of July festivities that ended with a loud colorful fireworks display accompanied by ohs, ahs and occasional shrieks.
“Look at them — watch, watch,” Nichole Cairns of Delhi said about seeing fireworks for the first time in 10 years. “It’s awesome. I love it.”
The fireworks boomed, then cascaded in bursts of blues, reds, greens and white.
“That was one good show,” a boy said aloud as he left the park.
Some other visitors and organizers agreed Thursday’s Hometown Fourth of July event was a successful friendly and family oriented event. More than 10 bands and performers were listed to appear on the main stage. Several listeners danced, as cluster of families and friends sat in chairs or on grass near Hodges Pond, and others milled around.
Police estimated attendance at 4,000 to 5,000 before people started arriving at 8 p.m. for the fireworks display. Long lines formed at some food venders.
Chicken, hotdogs, pulled-pork sandwiches, fried-dough specialties, cotton candy and popcorn were on the fair-like menu.
Michael Fiore, 14, Sam Devlin, 15, and Timmy Gillaspy, 14, of Troop 400 in Cincinnati said Thursday afternoon that the food was a highlight of the day because they had spent a week on camping rations while hiking in the rain in the Adirondack Park.
They were among 35 scouts and their leaders on a trek that included the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and their first dry night at Gilbert Lake State Park in Laurens. They agreed Oneonta was a friendly and they were looking forward to watching fireworks before boarding a bus to Niagara Falls.
Johanna Teeri of New York City also was staying in Gilbert Lake State Park. The family previously had traveled to Margaretville but wanted to explore farther, she said, and they came to Oneonta.
“We love it,” she said, as her daughters finished having their faces painted. Evelina Porta, 6, and her sister, Adiana Porta, 8, said they enjoyed playing the inflatable games, which Adiana said numbered almost 10.
“And they’re all different,’’ her sister said.
Jeff and Belinda Schallert of Oneonta were waiting in line at an inflatable attraction with their three sons. They recently moved back to Oneonta from Florida and were pleased again to be in an area where they could find different, affordable activities nearby to do as a family each weekend, he said, and the Fourth of July event was a good example.
“The kids are having a great time,” he said. “It’s been a really nice family-oriented day.”
David Hayes of First Night Oneonta, which organized the Fourth of July event, said the day had been “absolutely great.” A transformer blew, but vendors and performers cooperated and the show went on, he said.
By observation, crowds appeared larger than last year, Hayes said.
“I see a ton of smiling faces — this shows off Oneonta at its best,” he said. “This is nothing short of fantastic.”
The event cost $15,000 to produce, which was supported by foundations, businesses and individuals, he said, and additionally, Five Star Subaru met the $5,000 cost for the fireworks display, he said.
More than 400 participants preregistered for the LEAF Council’s TUFF eNuff, Oneonta’s first 5k obstacle challenge, which was deemed a success, organizers said.
Lt. Douglas Brenner of the Oneonta Police Department said as of 8 p.m. there were no problems except for two arrests for possessing an open container of alcohol.
Hayes said there were between 30 and 40 vendors, including some nonprofit groups holding fundraisers.
The Walton Historical Society was present for the first time at the Fourth of July event, and President Lorraine Miller said their root beer float sale brought in more than $800. Stewart’s Shops donated most float ingredients, she said, and they went through 40 gallons of ice cream.
Miller said she “couldn’t get over” how relaxed and happy visitors appeared.
“We enjoyed it here,” she said. “It’s been a good day.”Thousands of visitors descended on Oneonta's Neahwa Park for Fourth of July festivities that ended with a loud colorful fireworks display accompanied by ohs, ahs and occasional shrieks.