First responders honored on Fourth

Albany celebrated the Fourth of July with a fireworks extravaganza. Thousands of people attended the event which took place downtown.

Albany celebrated the Fourth of July with a fireworks extravaganza. Thousands of people attended the event which took place downtown.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Across America, the Fourth of July celebrates the country's founding with food, fun and fireworks.

In Albany people also celebrated the work of police officers, ambulance personnel and firefighters because the responders risk their lives to be first on the scene in times of peril to protect residents.

"There were 400 first responders who died in 9/11," said Kristin Caso, special events coordinator for the city. "We thought it would be a good idea now that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is coming up to pay tribute to our local first responders."

The banner across Front Street at Veterans Memorial Park Amphitheater spelled it out, "A Tribute to First Responders. Safe and Secure 24/7/365. Thanks For All You Do."

Firefighters stringing the banner up between two Albany Fire Department fire truck ladders that stretched about 50 feet into the sky said they appreciated the recognition.

"It is an honor to be appreciated by everyone," said Josh Olsen, a firefighter since May. "I'm honored to be included with the others because I'm new."

A new twist to the Fourth of July celebration was the 6 p.m. Panthers football team championship parade from the RiverQuarium down Front Street to the amphitheater. Saturday the team closed out its season by winning the SIFL championship 69-48 over the Louisiana Swashbucklers.

The parade included team members, the Panthers dance team and the Panthers band. When the Panthers band finished playing the Albany Marine Band played longer than an hour.

"Here we stand is our theme," said Marine Staff Sgt. Terri Kopetzki. "'God Bless America', 'Stars and Stripes Forever' and 'Georgia on My Mind.' It'll be a rousing set."

Rousing was another way to describe the pyrotechnics show city employee and volunteer master of fireworks Dale Henry planned for the night. Henry and eight volunteers donate their time to put on the show.

Set to recorded patriotic tunes played by Albany's Dangerous Entertainment, the 5,000 rockets burst from the south end of Front Street. The rockets included some that ignited at about 80 feet in the air, others at 500 feet and others that reached 1075 feet in the air.

Many venders along Front Street during the show offered food ranging from kabobs and ribbon fries to more traditional barbecue and hot dogs. With the hot fireworks show and temperatures in the 90s refreshing cold drinks also were a hit with the crowd.

The icy way to cool down was served up by Albany entrepreneur Eric D. Culbreth. Operating as "Bangin' Treats" Culbreth served up Italian ices to the crowd.

"I was in Columbia selling T-shirt a few years back," Culbreth said. "I tasted Italian ice and then I had another until I had about six of them. I decided it was really good and decided to invest."

Since 2007 Culbreth's Bangin' Treats business has gone from a pushcart to a trailer from which he offers his ices, cold water and Gatorade.

"Everybody feels good on the Fourth," Culbreth said. "With the heat I think everyone feels even better with an Italian ice."