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Fireworks finale ends festivities on the Fourth

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Area residents watch fireworks from the deck of the Massad  Family YMCA water park in Stafford County on Friday, July 4, 2014. (PETER CIHELKA / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Area residents watch fireworks from the deck of the Massad Family YMCA water park in Stafford County on Friday, July 4, 2014.(PETER CIHELKA / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

SEE ALSO: Kids’ parade kicks off family Fourth

Throughout the day, families enjoyed the sunshine and warmth at two Fourth of July celebrations in Stafford County.

The George Washington Foundation held its annual Fourth of July at Ferry Farm during the day, bringing together the area’s colonial history with fun activities and lessons for the whole family.

Following that, Pratt Park opened for crowds of families with bubbles, beach balls and lawn chairs in tow to wait for the area’s prominent fireworks show.

Kevin Byron, who volunteered with wife Sreca and daughter Julie at the jewelry making station, said that the Fourth of July at Ferry Farm had been about trying new things for them.

The Byrons, who live in Stafford, had never been to the celebration before.

“I like it, we’re seeing a lot of people coming in, and we’ve got all ages participating—from infants to parents,” Byron said.

As families set up camp chairs and small tents or herded children to the different activity stations, White Oak native Mark Newton and his musical partner, Steve Thomas, regaled visitors with bluegrass, stories about their lives and, at one point, a rousing version of “Happy Birthday.”

Lynn and Donald Embrey of Stafford attended the festivities in part just to see Newton—who had performed at their church in the spring—perform.

“It sure beat sitting at home,” Donald Embrey said with a laugh.

Though the Embreys said the attendance wasn’t quite as high as they had expected, they found the event very enjoyable.

“It’s pretty much what we wanted,” Lynn Embrey said. “It’s enjoyable and a wonderful day for it, too. It’s a great thing to do.”

Susan Sherman, education assistant for the foundation, said the event at Ferry Farm was largely oriented around the children.

The relaxed nature is one of the reasons Stafford resident Scott Nichols and his family have been coming back to Ferry Farm for the past four years.

“We just like it. It’s relaxing and not commercial at all,” he said. “The Fourth is not about being commercial.”

It was the Hobbs family’s second time at the event, but Travis and Melanie said that this was more like the first because their four children—ranging from 4 to 12 years—were finally old enough to enjoy it.

The Hobbs, who live in Fredericksburg, said the weather had been perfect for them to come out and attempt as many activities as possible.

“We did pretty much everything they have,” Melanie Hobbs said, “There is nothing more appropriate than learning about our nation’s history on the Fourth.”

For the evening events, more than 5,000 Fourth of July celebrators came out to Pratt Park to celebrate with music and food.

The Quantico Marine Rock and Roll Band, at its first Pratt performance, opened the evening with classics like “We’re an American Band,” “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

While the sun was still shining down on families trickling in, both the Stafford and Fredericksburg sheriff offices patrolled the area.

Stafford Deputy Walter O’Neal enjoyed his first time patrolling for the Fourth, he said.

Riding his motorcycle through the relaxing families, he helped locate lost family members and watched out for contraband, such as alcoholic beverages and fireworks.

Fredericksburg Mayor Katherine Greenlaw addressed the crowd, welcoming the community and paying respect to those who’ve served their country.

Her favorite part, she said, is seeing the community come together for the patriotic event.

Greenlaw also said this year was particularly important, as it marks the 200th anniversary of the American flag and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Roberta Gold, in her 15th year organizing the event, spoke about her appreciation for the food vendors who come out year after year.

“I do everything I can to accommodate them,” she said.

At 8 p.m., the Quantico Marine Band began its set of patriotic favorites, and

Riverside Dinner Theater’s artistic director, Patrick A’Hearn, sang “America the Beautiful.”

Twenty-four actors from Riverside’s cast of “West Side Story” joined the Marine Corps band to sing selections from their summer musical.

This was the second year the Marine band and Riverside came together to entertain.

The opportunity to perform at Pratt, A’Hearn said, is a “big kick” for the cast, as it’s a rare chance to perform with a 50-piece band.

It’s also a chance to get Riverside’s name out to the community and remind them of the theater available in their backyards, he said.

Newlyweds Sarah and Jared Fischer of Locust Grove enjoyed their first time at Pratt with their two children, Jayden, 2, and Gavin, 6 months.

Lisa and Rick DiGiorgio, Sarah’s parents, also joined them for the first time at Pratt.

For the family, the relaxing atmosphere, open space and family-heavy crowd is the best part, they said.

The University of Mary Washington Pep Band rounded out the evening with toe-tapping music to warm the crowd up for the fireworks.

Fireworks were set off following Gold’s countdown at 9:25 p.m. The rainbow of colors lit the sky for a full 20 minutes while the Marine band played in the background.

Dawnthea Price: 540/374-5403

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