Independence Day, the day the United States declared their independence from Great Britain, July 4, 1776. Each year since, celebrations have included family picnics, parades, carnivals, concerts and fireworks, celebrating America’s birthday.
Chesterfield County has been celebrating America’s birthday with a free fireworks display for at least 20 years. The event, held at the Chesterfield County Fairgrounds, has grown to a community party for 10,000 residents enjoying music, kids activities and a front row seat for the fireworks display. Families not making it in to the fairgrounds, once it is maxed out, will line the roadways, shopping centers and the county complex surrounding the fairgrounds to catch the explosions of color and sound to conclude a full-day of activities.
Sitting calmly at her desk in the Community Development Building a few days before the festivities gets underway, Meghan Coates, events coordinator for the Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation, is prepared and ready for a day full running, making sure everything goes smoothly. “It is a lot,” she said. “Tons of details.”
Coates has been organizing the celebration for the last four years. Beginning in January, the details include booking the entertainment and working out the logistics, which include coordinating between the fire department, police and the pyrotechnician. The entertainment and vendors have been returning over the years and know the routine. “The police department plays a major roll because of the number of people, 10,000. We max out the fairgrounds,” said Coates. Cars are turned away when the police know the fairgrounds are full. “Two years ago we opened the rest of the county complex so people can stay in their cars and watch them [the fireworks].”
The gates open at 5 p.m. and Coates said you should arrive early. Roads to the fairgrounds will close at 9 p.m. or when the parking lots are full. Entertainment kicks off at 6 p.m. She advises to bring chairs because there is limited seating. There are food vendors but families are welcome to bring their own food and drink. Keep in mind that no alcohol beverages, glass containers, pets or personal fireworks are allowed. Food vendors include Gregory’s Grill, Harold and Donna’s Concessions and Strawberry Street. Ice cream and funnel cakes are also available. All the vendors do a strong business during the event, especially the funnel cake vendor. Coates said, “There is a line from the beginning until 10 p.m.”
The Kings of Swing will be entertaining on the main stage. Children may enjoying the Kids Area for $3 which includes entertainment from the Juggler Jonathan Austin, Zebo the Clown, inflatables, and a puppet show.
Coates will begin her work early in the day overseeing the pyrotechnician setting up for the fireworks display. Working with a budget of $20,000, a little more than half will be used for the fireworks display. One thousand to 1100 shells will provide a 20- to 30-minute aerial fireworks show shortly after 9 p.m.
The Chesterfield County Fairgrounds is located at 10300 Courthouse Road, across from L.C, Bird High School. This is the first year for a rain date, which will be the following day, July 5. The forecast is for a possibility of scattered thunderstorms and a high of 97 degrees for the day and a low of 75 degrees. For additional details contact 748-1623.
Coates next big event will be an influx of 12,000 out of town visitors to the county for the IWLCA Capital Cup event, a lacrosse tournament, to be held July 20 through July 22. The tournament will take place at Crosby High School and the River City Sportsquest on 19 fields from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Coates said this is one of the largest recruiting opportunities in the country. Over 350 coaches will be observing the players for recruitment possibilities.