Light up the sky this Fourth of July with patriotism

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By Kirsten Laskey

Los Alamos will be lit up full force on July 4 – not only through fireworks but with children’s parades, a 5K run and one big party at Overlook Park in White Rock.

The patriotism in town will immediately start at with jog at the Los Alamos Family YMCA’s Independence Day Firecracker 5K Family Fun Run.

Runners of all ages are invited to take part in the race, which begins with check-in at 7:15 a.m. July 4. Registration is being accepted now for the race but participants can also register the day of the race from 7-7:45 a.m. The 5K run will start at 8 p.m. Racers will receive T-shirts and will be eligible to win prizes.

The fee is $12 for pre-registered participants and $20 for day-of runners.

When the race is completed, youngsters can pound the pavement again, this time in the YMCA’s Independence Day Children’s Parade. The parade begins at 11 a.m. July 4 at the parking lot on the southeast corner of Central and 20th Street.

Parade walkers are encouraged to deck themselves, bikes, toys or family members in patriotic fare. Those in the parade should gather at 10:30 a.m. at the parking lot.

The procession will head east down Central Avenue then north on 15th Street to the south end of the YMCA. At the conclusion of the parade, the American Legion will perform a flag ceremony and hot dogs and watermelon will be served at the legion, located at 1325 Trinity Drive.

Diana Martinez, development officer at the YMCA, urged people to take part is this annual event.

“Participation in the children’s parade on July 4, 2000, in Los Alamos was way down,” she recalled. “It was understandable, our citizens were hurting, no one knew what events you could count on, what was going to continue in our community.”

 Martinez continued, “I remember puzzling over the tiny parade, wondering if it was because it had been lost in the newspaper. Los Alamos resident John Courtright was within earshot and said, ‘Everyone knows the YMCA has an Independence Day Parade every year.’”

 “Maybe the community was hurting, maybe many were still out of town, maybe they attended the White Rock children’s parade,” Martinez said.

“Usually only 80 to 150 kids and parents march, but that year only 40 flag-waving children marched down Central.”

“Our community has come a long way since that fire. Long-term Los Alamos folks may know, the YMCA always does a parade, but we still want to get the word out. Children, parents and individuals are welcome to put on their patriotic colors and celebrate our county’s Independence day,” she said.

The YMCA children’s parade isn’t the only parade in town.

At 10 a.m. July 3, a children’s parade and carnival will be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 366 Grand Canyon St. in White Rock.  

The festivities include a flag ceremony and children’s parade around the block, led by the Los Alamos police and fire departments.

Following the parade will be a free carnival featuring balloons, snow cones and popcorn. Community youth have organized games with free prizes for the children. Typical activities include face painting, three-legged races, sponge throws, fishing and balloon tosses.

Gary Stradling of the White Rock LDS ward said, “We are doing this on July 3 to commemorate July 4. I think it’s excellent for our young in the our community to be excited about Independence Day and to feel patriotism and want to get together and celebrate it,” he said. “It’s an expression of community and coming together to celebrate. It pulls the community together.”

He added, “It’s a personal delight for me to see all the fun that goes on during the carnival. Young adults who volunteer really enjoy it and the younger ones really have a wonderful time.”

Like the YMCA’s parade, the White Rock festivities are a tradition in the community. Stradling said the event has been held since the late 1980s.

Another tradition is the July 4 event at Overlook Park in White Rock.

The schedule for the all-day event kicks off with bouncy toys for children from 2-8 p.m. From 4-5 p.m. the local band, Peace Meal, will provide live music before the Los Alamos Community Winds takes the stage from 5:30-6:45 p.m. Peace Meal will return for another performance from 7-8 p.m. Will Fox and Skip Egdorf will perform a fly-over from 8-8:15 p.m. The festivities continue with the HillStompers playing music from 8:10-8:30 p.m.

Peace Meal will make their final performance from 8:30-9 p.m.

At 9 p.m., the “Star Spangled Banner” will be performed, the flag will be raised and the fireworks show will begin. The fireworks will conclude at 9:30 p.m. and the HillStompers will provide final entertainment for the evening.

To avoid traffic and crowds, Atomic City Transit is offering free bus services from 4-8:20 p.m. from Los Alamos National Bank to Overlook Park. Additionally, there will be activity school buses heading from Piñon Elementary School to the park. Atomic City Transit will also offer rides back to Los Alamos once the fireworks are completed.

The Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos hosts the event and will ask for a $5 donation.

Pat Soran, a Kiwanis member, said the fireworks show will be a sight to see.

Almost 2,500 shells will be launched and the crowd will be treated to both traditional fireworks as well as special displays that form different shapes such as smiley faces, Mickey Mouse and spiders. The show has evolved a lot since it first got started 30 years ago. Soran said four years ago, the civic organization gathered enough money to do the show electronically.

This makes the procedure safe, Soran said. It’s just a matter of programming. It’s a lot of work, he added, but it is worth it.

“It’s just a service to the community,” he said. “We try to take in donations and get contributions from various businesses to cover costs. We give a lot back to the community by doing this.“

On a more personal level, Soran added a big benefit of the event is “being a part of the community (and) giving back to the community. This community has been good to me and this is how I can show appreciation to it.”