Saturday night, the public enjoyed the results of the chamber’s work with a fireworks spectacular.
The Mark Twain Rodeo may be history, but the traditional fireworks show to kick off Fourth of July celebrations is alive and well.
When rodeo organizers announced in January, the 31-year-old event would be no more, the Mark Twain Lake Chamber of Commerce worked to keep the fireworks show going, but needed to raise between $3,000 and $5,000 to continue the festivities.
The chamber was successful, and the show was saved.
And Saturday night, the public enjoyed the results of the chamber’s work with a fireworks spectacular.
People started staking out spaces several hours before the fireworks started.
By 8 p.m., there were no parking spaces available at the M.W. Boudreaux Memorial Visitor Center, which overlooks the dam. And cars started lining up north and south of the dam on State Route J, the north and south spills ways and the observation tower parking lot.
They pulled out lawn chairs, blankets and sat in the beds of pickup trucks, while the lights of more than 200 boats dotted Mark Twain Lake.
Helen Ross and her daughter, Delanee, 14, found a spot almost on top of the dam, close to the barrier marking the minimum distance for spectator safety.
“It was a bummer not having the rodeo this year because she (pointing to Delanee) is a barrel racer…this would have been her first Mark Twain Rodeo,” she said. “But we are happy to be here for the fireworks.”
Across the road, Sharon Utterback, a retired teacher who lives in Perry, was in her convertible, seat leaning back about 45 degrees, occupying time with the smartphone, while awaiting the start of the show.
“I moved back here about 15 years ago,” she said. “I love this area and these are great fireworks.”
In the parking lot of the observation tower, the Henry family had a prime spot, with a straight-line view to the launching area in the middle of the dam. They had lawn chairs, sleeping bags and plenty of water.
“This should be fun,” said mom Kellie.
Above them, people took positions on the hill leading to the observation tower, while a few were on top of a fire truck.
Chris Coe wore a bright yellow safety vest with orange stripes, keeping people from going beyond barriers that blocked the dam walkway.
But Coe, who has been a park ranger for the United States Army Corps of Engineers for 28 years, had a second important – to turn off the bridge street lights so the would not distract from the show in the air.
At precisely 9:45 p.m., Coe turned the lights off. The crowd started rustled. Everyone waiting.
At 9:47 p.m., to the approval of the crowd, the first rocket flew about 200 feet in the air before exploding into a cascade of sparks and color. The show was officially underway.
For the next 25 minutes, dozens of rockets were fired in the air, exploding to the cheers of the crowd.
With the last spectacular display of a multitude of rockets, one disappointed young boy said the his father, “Are they over.”
The answer, yes, for this year.