By SEAN ROWLEY
Noise and revelry and lights in the skies awed the crowds Wednesday evening south of Tahlequah to mark the start of the Independence Day weekend.
More than 1,000 area residents turned out for the second Red, White and Boom fireworks display, presented by the Cherokee Nation near the Cherokee Casino. Those attending gathered in the field south of the casino to view the fiery bursts launched from the rodeo arena on the county fairgrounds.
“This is great family entertainment,” said Tahlequah resident Mike Wing. “It is a good atmosphere and something you can bring the kids to. And it’s free.”
About $9,000 worth of fireworks created the pyrotechnic spectacle. Last year, the Red, White and Boom show became Tahlequah’s first organized public display of fireworks in several years.
“In the early hours, we had twice as many people on the grounds than we did at this time last year,” said David Moore, director of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce. “The favorable weather has really helped us. It is a great event for the community and a great way to celebrate our country.”
Tony Jones brought his family from Stilwell to watch the skybursts.
“We actually heard about it on Facebook,” he said. “It sounded like a lot of fun, so we decided we would check it out.”
Musical entertainment was provided by the Sharon Sharp Band, and the Kiwanis Club of Tahlequah operated a concession booth offering soft drinks, snacks and hot dogs. Just in case, fire protection was on standby through the Tahlequah Fire Department and Woodall Fire Department.
“This helps us raise money for our projects,” said Craig Clifford, Kiwanis Club president. “We are a community service organization, so when we are asked to help with something like this, we are happy to participate. We are part of Tahlequah, and this is a great Tahlequah event.”
Noting the traffic in the area, Moore said the attendees on the grounds south of Cherokee Casino comprised only a portion of those enjoying the display.
“Toward Sequoyah High School and near the commercial buildings, it is full of cars,” he said. “Music, family, fireworks, hot dogs and snow cones – it doesn’t get any more American than that.”
Moore said the Tahlequah Chamber was one of many local organizations that were enthusiastic about the event, calling the Red, White and Boom display “a win-win-win for everybody.”
“One of the chamber’s missions is community development,” he said. “While Tahlequah is a growing community, we want to retain some of the small-town charm that we have. Events like this help us make new friends and renew old friendships, and that is what we’re looking for.”