CLINTON -- The Clinton area showed up in large numbers to celebrate the Fourth of July along the city's riverfront Thursday.
After the festival goers took in the traditional parade, led by Clinton firefighter Adam Cain and the family of fallen Clinton Fire Lt. Eric Hosette who served as grand marshals, the crowd descended to Riverview Park and the Riverview Bandshell for the daylong event that area residents have become accustomed to.
Live music, local food and beverage vendors, inflatable courses for children, a petting zoo, water wars, professional wrestling matches, and of course, a hot dog eating contest kept residents entertained in the heat.
Crowds then headed to NelsonCorp Field for the LumberKings game and Independence Day fireworks.
With a brass band playing patriotic tunes in the background, organizer Dave Helscher looked around the festival grounds at the attractions with his mind already on the 2020 celebration.
"Pretty soon we'll get in to the post-mortem mode and find out what worked and what didn't and things like that," Helscher said. "With the new events this year, we'll see kind of a response with things like the wrestling or the classic car show. The community's voice will help us with that."
A team of "four or five" organizers and a volunteer crew of an estimated 75 put the community celebration together, Helscher said. It isn't an easy task by any means; the Clinton National Bank Senior Vice President was visible throughout Clinton of late seeking volunteer help for Thursday's festivities.
The process doesn't seem to be getting easier, Helscher said.
"Yes, it's very difficult," Helscher said bluntly of recruiting volunteers. "We can make it work with 75.
"The set-up went seamlessly, because this is a great, hard-working group of people who have done this before," Helscher said. "That made it easier on everyone.
"Now, the clean-up process hasn't started yet, but the real need for volunteers is there every year," Helscher said.
As attendees flocked to stands offering summer favorites like snow cones, walking tacos, nachos, hot dogs and water on the hot July day, Helscher also praised the area's public safety officials and first responders for working so fluidly with organizers to ensure the day went off without a hitch -- or, at least with as few hitches as possible.
"They're indispensable," Helscher said of the police and fire departments on scene Thursday.
At the end of the day, Helscher said he's most proud, as he's been in the past, that the festival has offered a non-political space for Gateway-area residents to celebrate America's freedom, now 243 years in the making.
"It's all about the community spirit, and getting everyone down here for the Fourth of July," Helscher said. "It's a completely non-partisan event. We've got both parties in the parade, we've got all kinds of groups present here, and that's nice to see that they want to be involved. That's just what it's all about; let's just celebrate America."