FREDERICKTOWN — The Fredericktown Fourth of July celebration held at the Fredericktown Community Park has become an annual tradition for many families who say it just wouldn’t feel like the Fourth if they missed the Fredericktown events.
“We’ve been doing this for about 17 years,” said Mount Vernon resident Liz Moore, who is among a group of almost 20 friends and family members who have made Fredericktown the location for the Fourth of July tradition.
With homemade salads dished up, and meat right off the grill, Moore said the family atmosphere of the events in Fredericktown, the fireworks display, and the free day of swimming at Sockman Lake, all are part of what keeps the group coming back each year.
“We girls organize it each year, and the guys just come to eat and cook,” she laughed. “This is our yearly thing.”
Across the park, a group of about 30 members of the Smith and Carpenter families said they have been coming to Fredericktown from Mount Vernon each Fourth of July for over 20 years.
“They have the best fireworks, and the swimming, the band and bingo all make it great,” said Kevin Carpenter.
The Fredericktown Lions Club made sure those who weren’t barbecuing on their own, had plenty to eat. Brats, kraut, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and french fries kept the hungry coming back for more.
“I like it when it’s busy,” said Lions Club member Kathy Toms as she kept the brats and hot dogs moving from the grill into the hands of hungry festivalgoers.
Lions Club member Paul James, working behind the counter, said the money raised by the club from the food sales is put back into the community in the form of school and community programs.
The Methodist Circuit scooped its ice cream for dessert, in traditional flavors as well as some new ones.
The full day of activities at the park featured free swimming at Sockman Lake, where head lifeguard Zach Moore said families had been swimming all day.
“This is my fourth year as a lifeguard. We are pretty steady today, usually with a lot of families,” he said.
Fredericktown Parks Director Bill Whaley said the day’s events are organized with families in mind, to give people a place to come out and enjoy being together in a safe, wholesome environment.
“People come out for the family atmosphere,” Whaley explained. “They can let the kids play and everybody can have a good time. They feel real comfortable here. It’s really safe and the police department does a great job.”
Whaley said the addition of carnival rides last year was well received, so the rides were back again this year. Also back this year was the band Southbound, which provided live music for the crowds gathering to wait for the fireworks.
Over 7,000 people were expected to fill the park to enjoy this year’s fireworks display.
In the shelter building, the bingo games organized by the Fredericktown Community Fire District as a fundraiser attracted crowds of players.
“I come every year, and they are so good to me,” said returning player Nila Leedy of Fredericktown.
Even after a stroke left her wheelchair-bound, Leedy said she still makes it to every game.
“They always help me out and make sure I have a good spot,” she said, carefully watching for bingo on all of her cards. Leedy comes to play bingo each year with her sister, Dorothy Giffin.
Fire Capt. Duane Canter said the department raises money through the bingo games for the department’s charitable activities throughout the year, including a fan drive, Christmas toy drive, Easter egg hunt and Interchurch Social Services donations. The department expected about 400 players to play at least one game Saturday.
Across the park at the ball diamonds, an open softball tournament brought in many area teams. Whaley said the tournament gets more popular each year, bringing many people out to the park, who then stay for the other activities.
Lions Club member Morris James directed dozens of children through different games, while parents watched from picnic tables nearby.
“This really is the greatest way to spend the Fourth,” said Hilary Davis of Richland County, who brought her two children and a niece to Fredericktown’s celebration. “We never miss coming here, and the fireworks are just the best ending. We love it.”