Lighting up the July 4 sky

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By Kirsten Laskey

Primary colors will decorate the Kiwanis’ Fourth of July celebration; splashes of red, white and blue set aglow by glittery fireworks, will fill up Overlook Park July 4. The spectacle, which gathers together about 15,000 people, has been held for 30 years. Its origins started around the 1960s and began with a man interested in bringing a Fourth of July celebration, like the one from his home town, to Los Alamos.

“My home town had one and I thought it was too bad we didn’t get everybody together and celebrate like we did in my home town,” club member Steve Stoddard said.

This desire led him and others to begin work on an Independence Day event. Stoddard said he and another Kiwanis member traveled to different businesses, asking for a $50 donation to purchase fireworks. In its early history, the Fourth of July celebration also included a guest speaker.

Stoddard added the Elks were influential with keeping the event going and the Sunrise Kiwanis Club members also managed the event for several years before the club folded.

As the years went on, Stoddard said the event got bigger and bigger and more expensive to run.

As it got bigger, it attracted more attention. “A lot of people are enjoying it, besides people in Los Alamos,” he said.

The attraction will return to Los Alamos, starting at 2 p.m. July 4. The fireworks may be the big highlight, but there will be plenty of other activities. Inflatable jump houses will be available from 2 p.m. until dark. Peace Meal, Community Winds and the Hill Stompers will play music for the crowds throughout the day. Vendors will set up booths and a flyover by Will Fox will start at 8 p.m.

The fireworks will be held from 9 -10 p.m.

A little more than 2,000 shells will be shot up into the night sky, Kiwanis member Pat Soran said.

Atomic City Transit will offer rides to Overlook Park so everyone can get in on the fun.

To attend all the events, a $5 donation will be requested. Children age 12 and younger will be admitted for free.

The club may collect the donations, but they are returned to the community in various ways such as through scholarships and donations to Family Strengths Network and Little League.

“Everything goes back to the community,” Kiwanis member Louise Mendius said.

The club encourages everyone to participate. “It’s a celebration,” Mendius said, “It’s a lot of fun.”

“It’s safe,” club member Kristy Keane said. “It’s for the community (and) it’s for a good cause.”

It appears the community and a good portion of New Mexico have gotten the message. Mendius said she has been told the fire works are the best show in northern New Mexico.

Plus, the show is featured in a “nice, comfortable place,” Soran said.

The celebration may be popular, but it hasn’t stopped the Kiwanis Club from continuing to expand on the event. For instance, Mendius said in the future, they would like to include music along with the fireworks. So the fireworks will explode to the sound of music.

Kiwanis is not the only organization in town with Independence Day plans. The Family YMCA will host its annual Children’s Day Parade at 11 a.m. July 4. The parade will go east down Central Avenue and then north on 15th Street before ending at the YMCA parking lot. The YMCA is also hosting its Independence Day Firecracker 5K Family Fun Run. The run starts at 8 a.m. and goes from the YMCA to Los Alamos High School and back. Runners can register at the front desk at YMCA. The fee is $15 for the first family member, $10 for the second family member and $8 for each subsequent member.

Also, the Los Alamos Recreation Division will host its third annual Red, White and Blue Kickball Tournament at 10 a.m. at Overlook Park at the softball fields. Two divisions will be featured in the tournament. The first is an adult co-ed competitive division. Players 16 and older can compete in this division. The second is a Family Fun division for children age 8 and older. The tournament fee is $100 per team. Register at the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center or go to www.losnmus/rec.