LIMA — For perhaps the first time in recent memory, the weather was perfect for the year’s Star Spangled Spectacular, held Friday at Lima’s Faurot Park.
“George Dunster has been doing this for 21 years, and I asked him if we ever had this nice of weather for this, and he said, ‘Absolutely not,’” Kurt Neeper, chairman of the Star Spangled Spectacular organizing committee, said. “So that sums up our day. I think everything’s gone according to plan.”
“People have come out early to enjoy the day, and we’ve been really pleased with that,” Bill Clinger, marketing director for The Lima News, said. “With the entertainment we lined up, we were hoping that the crowds would come out earlier, and they’ve been very steady.”
While many people equate the celebration with the evening entertainment and fireworks, there were a lot of events during the day, as well. This year’s daytime festivities had something for the entire family, from 5K runs to rides for the kids to concessions to a cruise-in.
• The celebrations started early Friday morning with the Freedom Fun Ride at 8:30 a.m. followed up by the Freedom 5K Run/Walk at 9 a.m. The run took participants from the corner of South Cole Street and Lakewood Avenue through downtown and then onto the Ottawa Riverwalk, before finishing at Faurot Park. The bike ride covered a nine-mile course along the Ottawa Riverwalk, going to Heritage Park.
• The park’s ball diamonds also hosted two baseball games, with an Abilities league game at 8:30 a.m. and a WOBL All-Star game at 3 p.m. Baseball lovers finished the day with a Lima Locos game at Simmons Field at 7 p.m.
• Food and concession booths opened at 2 p.m., staying open until 11 p.m. As with the other events, the weather kept vendors busy all day.
“It’s going to be a great crowd with the weather,” Mike Ryan of The Almond Shoppe in Elida said. “Usually when you see this many people, it’s not until 7:30 p.m. or so. But they’ve been coming out very early.”
• There was plenty of entertainment at the Faurot Park pavilion during the afternoon. Mike Hemmelgarn entertained the kids at 2 and 3:30 p.m. Plenty of local talent was also on display at New Country 92.1 The Frog’s Frog Factor, a talent show akin to NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
• Also performing Friday was the High Octane Drumline, a drum group consisting of local young people and organized by City Council member Jesse Lowe.
“They have about 20 and 25 kids, and it’s a lot of fun,” Neeper said. “It’s great to see how good these kids are.”
• Also included this year was a car show and cruise-in meant to honor those who have preserved this nation’s freedoms, making celebrations like this possible.
“This is meant to honor our veterans,” Neeper said. “This is the first year we had this event.”
The show included about 50 vehicles, beginning behind the St. Rita’s Cancer Center and processing down to Faurot Park for the show.
• Some of the biggest crowds of the day were gathered at the kids rides next to the diamond on North Shore Drive. There were long lines throughout the afternoon as children eagerly awaited their turn on a variety of rides.
“This is definitely her favorite part of the day,” Darrell Johnson said, speaking about his daughter, Justice, 9, awaiting her turn on the Sea Ray. “I don’t know if I’d call it mine, but she loves it.”
Organizers also extended the hours for the rides, giving kids more time to enjoy themselves.
“We started the rides at 2 p.m. this year,” Neeper said. “We also added a couple of rides. It’s something we hoped would give people opportunities to come out earlier in the day and enjoy some family time.”
With the added attractions along with the great weather, Neeper and the other organizers are hopeful the event had a record turnout this year.
“We had very good turnouts for the cycling event and cruise-in, with some great entertainment all day at the pavilion,” Neeper said. “We won’t have numbers until later, but we’re hoping to break the record.”