Community comes together for fireworks show

July 5, 2018

By the time the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Red, White, KaBoom” extravaganza wrapped at 11 p.m. Tuesday, Rick Haas’ pickup truck had been sitting outside the Platte County Ag Park for nearly two days.

“It was worth it,” said the longtime Columbus resident, who decided with his family to park his vehicle along the fence in front of the park’s track at 6 a.m. Monday. “If you want to get a good spot, you’ve got to do it. I did just so I knew we could get a good spot up along this fence and watch it.”

Haas didn’t actually stay on the grounds for 24-plus hours. He simply is a seasoned vet when it comes to the local fireworks display. He said he has attended the Independence Day celebration held on the night of July 3 for 20-plus years, including the last eight the chamber has spearheaded it.

“You get to see the fireworks, especially the ground show, a lot better,” Haas said. “You feel the explosions and everything; you’re right there almost. It’s great.”

Haas had various members of his family, as well as co-workers and friends, at his site. The group came prepared, equipped with plenty of chairs, a tent to shield the sun, various beverages and munchies.

“It’s just for anyone I know who wants to come out,” he said.

Of course, the Haas crew was just some of the hundreds of people who packed the Ag Park stands and parking lot to take in the festivities. Dozens of families were tailgating in the lot all around the Haas family, grilling, chatting and even getting in a few rounds of Cornhole. The latter is a bean bag lawn game in which players take turns throwing the bags at raised platforms with a hole at the far end.

It was clear that, in a way, this night was a community block party.

“It’s something to do, something to enjoy. My kids like it and now my grandkids like it,” Platte Center resident Ken Podany said of attending the show.

Podany was making his way back to his vehicle with family, talking with various friends and family members he came across before the Tuesday evening show. He said the event was a good opportunity to reconnect with friends he didn’t necessarily see throughout the year or on a regular basis.

“We enjoy it,” he said, adding the firework show itself was also good.

Knowing the show has become an important part of residents’ lives makes the planning and fundraising for Red, White, KaBoom throughout the year worth it for Chamber President K.C Belitz.

“It is nice to know that for a lot of them, it’s a tradition, you’re part of their summer. That’s cool,” he said, noting people began dropping off their vehicles in the parking lot a week in advance. “I like the fact they plan that far ahead and know this is something they are going to enjoy doing.”

The night itself was about more than fireworks. Local band Barrel House rocked the state for much of the evening, while Columbus Family YMCA provided kiddos a chance to create and color masks, as well as get a temporary tattoo, among other things.

Nearby, Connection Christian Church had two enormous inflatables that caught the eye of just about every child who came within 50 yards of them.

“It’s going really good,” said Jo Suess, chairwoman of the Red, White, KaBoom committee that helps plan the event. “Every year we get a little better and it runs a little smoother.”

She also had praise for Midwest Pyrotechnics, of Stromsburg, for its efforts in creating an entertaining fireworks show. The dazzling display, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, featured various colors blasting into the sky and an impressive ground show.

“It is always gratifying to have a full house and know that people enjoy it,” Belitz said prior to the main event.

For Haas, all the effort he put in prior to Tuesday would be worth it once the show came to an end.

“I’m getting too old to buy them myself, get away from them far enough and not get hurt,” he said, with a laugh. “So I just love to come out here and watch everybody else enjoy them and have fun. Plus, they put on a good show. I enjoy the fireworks.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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