Fayette County

Tens of thousands pack Lexington's July 4 festivities

The Fourth of July fireworks show over downtown Lexington, Ky, on Monday July 4, 2011. Photo by Hannah Potes | StaffFourth of July fireworks show in Lexington, Ky, on Monday July 4, 2011. Photo by Hannah Potes | Staff
The Fourth of July fireworks show over downtown Lexington, Ky, on Monday July 4, 2011. Photo by Hannah Potes | StaffFourth of July fireworks show in Lexington, Ky, on Monday July 4, 2011. Photo by Hannah Potes | Staff

Lexington's Fourth of July Festival proved that downtown can draw a crowd.

City officials estimated that 100,000 people turned out for the festivities Monday — festivities that included watching an hourlong parade, listening to live music and stocking up on kettle corn for the year.

Renee Jackson, president of Downtown Lexington Corporation, said police and Parks and Recreation officials told her the crowd was "comparable if not bigger than previous years" of 100,000 revelers.

The crowd began gathering about 10 a.m. at the corner of Main Street and Limestone, braving an annoying, persistent drizzle that seemed to dampen their clothes but not their spirits.

They included children bearing the kind of thrilled-yet-terrified grins that can only come from riding horses, provided by Rosie's Ponies in Georgetown. A few people danced along with the Wheeler Dealer Square Dance Club, but they sheepishly seemed to lose interest when club members called for volunteers to come on stage.

Still more people stood in lines for food, drinks, bathrooms and merchandise — a trend that would grow as the day wore on, the rain stopped and the crowd multiplied.

This marks the second year that the festival has been held at Main, Limestone and Short Streets, a move that seems to be winning fans.

Last year, the event was moved because of construction on Vine Street, said Lori Houlihan, a special-events liaison for Mayor Jim Gray.

"It worked out really well last year, so they just kept it this way," she said. "It's very crowded, and people seem to be having a great time."

"I really resisted the change, but this is better," said Dan Mattox, who said he attends the festival every year. Mattox cited the clever use of the vacant CentrePointe lot as a hub for music, activities and food.

Many festival-goers said they appreciated the use of the lot, essentially a grassy field downtown.

"This seems to be a better use for it than anything I've seen so far," Juanita Burchett said.

Jennifer Frederick and Kate Andry agreed.

"I love it," Frederick said. "I feel like they could make it into a park and it could give downtown a real sense of community."

Thousands lined the street to watch this year's parade, which included the usual components — marching bands, fire trucks, horses and motorcycles.

Several politicians waved to the crowd and tossed candy to bystanders, but none drew cheers from the crowd quite like independent gubernatorial candidate Gatewood Galbraith.

The crowd roared when anything loud passed by — Corvettes, motorcycles or marching bands. One favorite float was a bright-pink fire truck with whining sirens carrying members of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Lexington, a breast cancer awareness organization.

"The crowd loved us. They were excited, but we actually had a powerful message behind it," said Vanessa Myers of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. "I actually saw tears running down women's faces."

After the parade, people scattered to drink, listen to music and eat until the fireworks started at 9:30 p.m.

Despite being big and boisterous, the crowd did not get rowdy Monday evening. No arrests had been reported as of 10:30 p.m.

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