4th of July festivities return to downtown Albany
Jun 24, 2015
By Jim West, Albany Herald
ALBANY — Following a change-of-venue over the past several years, Albany’s official 4th of July entertainment and fireworks display is returning to downtown.
Speaking at a media conference Tuesday at the Thronateeska Science Museum, Kristen Caso, events coordinator for the Albany Department of Parks and Recreation, said that while the family-oriented event will be centered at the Albany Civic Center on West Oglethorpe Boulevard, many downtown attractions and businesses will participate in the festivities.
“We’ll have tons of great musical entertainment, good food and the best fireworks display in Southwest Georgia, and most of it is free,” Caso said. “Why go out of town when you can have a great ‘stay-cation’ and have so much fun?”
According to Caso, while the professional-level pyrotechnics display won’t begin until 9:30 p.m., the free music and entertainment will commence at 5:30 p.m at the Veterans Amphitheatre near the Civic Center. Entertainment for Saturday will include DJ Dolla Bill, Mopeland, Unbreakable Bloodline and soul and blues legend Clarence Carter.
Starting at 5 p.m., a variety of food and merchandise vendors will be stationed along South Front Street near the Civic Center.
“The vendors will be selling everything from pizza, turkey legs and chicken wings to bloomin’ onions, funnel cakes and cotton candy,” Caso said. “I advise everyone to show up hungry.”
The fireworks display will be conducted by full-time Albany city buyer and part-time pyrotechnician Dale Henry and his staff of six city employees, all of whom are trained in pyrotechnics. According to Henry, the bright and colorful display will feature more than 1,000 aerial shells, each designed to burst at high altitudes, as well as a “conglomeration” of more than 2,000 ground-based units.
“Fireworks will be going on in different areas, and you won’t see them until they go off,” Henry said. “We have some surprises for you, so you’ll have to look around to see what’s happening.”#Caso warned that personal fireworks would not be allowed at the event.
“Every year we ask that people don’t bring fireworks,” Caso said. “Even sparklers can be dangerous. Now we have a new state law in effect on July 1, where you can buy things like Roman candles and bottle rockets. But if you accidentally light someone on fire, that’s going to ruin everyone’s 4th of July.”
Alcohol is also prohibited at the event, Caso said.
Caso said that in recent years the Independence Day celebration has been held in a variety of places, including Hilsman Park, Hugh Mills Stadium, Riverfront Park, and most recently, the Exchange Club Fairgrounds.
In addition to events in and near the Civic Center, other downtown attractions are participating in this year’s special weekend celebration. Thronateeska Heritage Center Director Tommy Gregors said the Wetherbee Planetarium and Flint RiverQuarium will offer a joint ticket for $8 plus tax, for admission to the attractions and their Saturday show.
Gregors said the Planetarium shows will begin at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., and 1, 2 and 3 p.m.
“It’s a great way to enjoy yourself with some air conditioning, then rejoin the outdoor festivities,” Gregors said.
Assistant Downtown Manager John Howard announced that the animated feature “The Lego Movie” will be shown on Friday night on a large inflatable screen.
Some recent 4th of July events in Albany have been marred by disruptions or acts of violence, but according to Albany Police spokeswoman Phyllis Banks, “every available officer” will be assigned to the Civic Center and downtown area for protection of citizens. In addition, festivities will be videotaped and monitored in real time.
“The security plan has been finalized,” Banks said. “Every available officer will be strategically placed. In addition, there will be officers on four-wheelers and on foot.”
Banks also warned parents to keep up with their children during the big celebration.
“This is a family-oriented event, and we want to keep it that way,” the APD spokeswoman said. “If you come as a family, we want you to leave as a family. We don’t want children wandering around without guidance. Stay together and don’t leave you children for us to take care of.”
Caso said that while the southeast portion of the Civic Center parking lot will be closed to accommodate the fireworks, around 1,500 spaces will be available at the Center, with plenty of spaces downtown. For addtional information, call the Recreation and Parks Department at (229) 430-5222.