LIMA —The family has grown. So has the tree. And, so has the show.
They call themselves “The Family on the Hill.” Lima’s Star Spangled Spectacular celebrated 20 years Thursday, and the sprawling group that begins with the Bechtel and Steger families has been at Faurot Park for all of them.
They embraced a July 4 that was nearly washed out, as did tens of thousands who gathered after steady, heavy rains finally cleared for the city’s annual celebration of the nation’s birthday.
After a day that demanded closely watching the weather radar, skies did clear, prompting people to make a late, but steady entrance into the park. The day included the Freedom 5K, Family Kickball Tournament and Sand Volleyball Tournament. Most other activities ended up happening, if with a late start.
Star Spangled Spectacular is presented by The Lima News, the city of Lima, St. Rita’s Medical Center, Superior Federal Credit Union and Your Hometown Stations.
Family on the Hill
That hill family donned matching shirts for the anniversary. The picture had all the last names under the tree, on the hill. Those familiar with the big playground in Faurot will know the spot. The first year, the tree was tiny, and the group brought a canopy. The next year, the group thought it would be fun to go again. And again. Eventually, they had a tradition.
“I’m not sure when it became the thing we do,” said Gretchen White. “But now, we’ve got it down to a science. Someone is always here by noon. Sometimes, there’s a hundred of us here.”
Mary McClure remembers being able to get her mother, wrapped in a blanket in her wheelchair, to the spot. Her mother is gone now, but there’s always someone new in the mix — friends, babies, spouses.
“The family has grown, and so has this tree,” McClure said, pointing upward to the reason the group no longer needs the canopy.
They come back, year after year, because the fireworks are the best around. The family has tried other shows in larger towns, only to be let down.
“They’re fantastic in Lima,” White said.
Families waiting with neon necklaces, phone photos and umbrellas and ponchos.
Abreeawna Hall, 6, of Cairo, likes all the colors. Her best friend, Kaidence White, 7, likes the colors too. But she really likes the loud ones. They both were more than satisfied as fireworks lit up the sky above some raindrops. The girls had come with neon glow hair bands and a princess crown, along with super-sized fireworks from Abreeawana’s mom and dad, Stephanie and Eric Hall.
“We’re all about it,” Stephanie Hall said. “If we didn’t come down, they’d be so disappointed.”
Makhi Perkins, 3, just stood with a giant smile on his face. He was up late, and it was loud.
His dad, Kevin Perkins, said he wouldn’t miss the show, even with the rain.
“It’s the fun, the fireworks, the environment,” Perkins said. “It’s such a nice time.”
As the fireworks began, Perkins pointed to the sky.
“And that’s what we came for. Even with the rain.”
The Silver Streak
Lauryn Ford and Dominque Ford, both 14, of Lima, rode on the Silver Streak and enjoyed the traditional hang-out area near the rides.
“We like those rides,” Ford said. “And, we like seeing friends.”
Bobby Bloomfield, of Elida, and his son James Bloomfield also took a turn on the Silver Streak, as the rain finally cleared enough to allow the free kids’ rides to get going.
“I don’t always get to come down here. Sometimes, I have to work,” Bloomfield said. “But I’m so happy to have the day off and be down here with my family. My kids love the rides, and we stay to watch the fireworks.”
Lima Area Concert Band
Members of the crowd near the Pavilion Stage stood as the Lima Area Concert Band finished its show with the military marches.
This was the first year in a number of years the band has played at the event, and conductor John Hill said the group is proud to be back, and always proud to play on the Fourth.
“I’m a big believer that there should be bands playing everywhere on the Fourth of July,” said Hill, who’s been with the group 35 years. “We like playing on this day. We all have a love of country. This music is familiar; everyone knows the tunes. It’s something we look forward to.”
Sand volleyball champs
The first part of the day belonged to friendly competition. The Junk Yard Dogs won the volleyball tournament for the second year in a row.
“That rain felt good at first. Then it got a little extreme,” said team member Josh Hawkins, wiping sweat and rain away. “We all play in different leagues around, and we’re all friends. We threw this team together and decided to just have some fun.”
The last two teams standing were a mix of other teams from leagues in the area. Hawkins found himself playing against some folks who are usually on his side of the net. It made for some fun.
“We’re all friends,” Hawkins said. “It get’s a little competitive, but nothing to crazy out of hand.”