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Albany celebrates nation's birthday

Fireworks are seen in the downtown Albany 2012 Independence Day at Ray Charles Plaza.  Officials estimated 20,000 people came downtown for the fireworks event.  The finale of the show was marred by an outbreak of fights in the Turtle Park area.

Fireworks are seen in the downtown Albany 2012 Independence Day at Ray Charles Plaza. Officials estimated 20,000 people came downtown for the fireworks event. The finale of the show was marred by an outbreak of fights in the Turtle Park area.

ALBANY, Ga. -

From every corner in Southwest Georgia, salutes to America's 236th birthday were conducted with the familiar sights and sounds.

Albany was no exception.

The Independence Day extravaganza for the Good Life City was conducted Wednesday evening along Front Street near the Albany Civic Center -- and included vendors selling souvenirs, funnel cakes and even providing music.

Among the booths included one from the Voter Education Registration Project, an organization that found a celebration of freedom the perfect opportunity to promote its cause.

"(The Fourth of July) means a lot to me," said Nicole Crawford, coordinator of the project. "It's a day that I'm proud to be an American.

"Independence comes by decision-making, so those out here registering to vote can become true Americans."

photo

Joe Bellacomo

The LeVee School of Music’s Blake Cook, left, Ty Raper, center, and Jon Wills add their music to the downtown Independence Day celebrations Wednesday on the corner of Pine Avenue and Front Street.

By 7 p.m., the parking spaces along Pine Avenue and West Broad Avenue were already beginning to fill up as was the parking lot at the Civic Center. Dancing demonstrations could be seen from the Ray Charles Plaza, and there was also an Albany Fire Department truck on Front Street with an American flag hoisted up on its ladder.

Kristin Caso, special events coordinator for Albany Recreation and Parks, was among those handing out flags and fans to the patrons coming out to the event.

Caso said that approximately 20,000 people were expected to come out on Wednesday, roughly matching the attendance from the previous year.

"We are really pleased with the turnout. People are coming out in waves," Caso said at the celebration. "We have had a lot of fun."

Recreation and Parks had been working since 6 a.m. coordinating with vendors for the celebration, which included participation from various entities from within the city.

"This really is a city of Albany event," Caso said. "This takes all of us coming together.

"This is a great way for bringing everyone together. This is a day that politics does not matter."

Festivities officially kicked off with an Albany Panthers parade that began from Pine Avenue and North Washington Street at 5 p.m. Throughout the day, people downtown were able to purchase special joint discounted tickets to both the Thronateeska Heritage Center and the Flint RiverQuarium at the venues or at the Albany Welcome Center.

The Welcome Center also rented out bikes at a discounted rate to patrons.

The big event was the fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. based from behind the Civic Center. The pyrotechnics show, conducted by Dangerous Entertainment, was set to a musical medley of classic and contemporary songs as well as patriotic favorites -- including Ray Charles' rendition of "America the Beautiful."

Among those coming out for the fireworks included Samantha Poole, who recently moved to the area with her husband and son.

photo

Joe Bellacomo

Albany police patrol the downtown Albany area during the annual Fourth of July fireworks display. The show was temporarily suspended as fights broke out in Turtle Park requiring police to disperse the crowd.

Her son even got a chance to sit in the driver's seat of the fire truck for a few minutes.

"We came here to see what the day was all about," she said. "(The Fourth of July is important) because it is a chance to celebrate our independence and (the privilege of) celebrating in public without being told what to do or what to say."

While that was ongoing, Summer Bash took place at The State Theatre on Pine Avenue for some of the city's younger residents who preferred an inside venue. The event, hosted by Swisha Man Slim and DJ Shock on the 1S&2S, went on from 8 p.m. until midnight.

Unfortunately, the main event downtown was not without its safety concerns.

According to city officials, a series of fights occurred in Turtle Grove Park. The fights delayed the firing of the fireworks' grand finale. Officials organizing the event had the crowd dispersed at the park, as they were concerned that the sounds from the fireworks may mask possible gunshots. The park was cleared and traffic escorted out. This led to confusion downtown as thousands of people tried to leave at once although police presence was heavy in the area. There were no confirmed gunshots and police cleared the area.

--J.D. Sumner contributed to this story.

Comments

Amazed2 2 years, 1 month ago

What else would you expect from the youth of Doughery County. Most or at least the one that the parents bothered to make them go attended the Dougherty County School System. The most corrupt in Georgia for sure and most likely the South. These young people have been "Taught" manners or lack of by parent of govenment programs now several generations into them . They have observed teaches banging students and I dont mean hitting them, teachers cheating, administrators,teachers and staff all fraudulently applying for "Free Lunch" aide. Murfree and his Kick disrtegarding laws related to how tax dollars are spent.. According to the records 82% qualify for free lunches in Dougherty County. NOw come on people really on 18 out of 100 peoples children in Doughery County can afford about $8 week to feed their own kids. That data reeks and smells like somebody has lets say workd the system to be kind here. And Murfree wonders why the State DOE is now stepping in to investigate. Looks like 82 out of 100 people have their had in the cookie jar. Hell even the DCSS Board memeber and Senior Principals had their hands in the cookie jar too. At 82% if anybody that looks at numbers and has a brain 82% should just jump of the page at you. That is so out of wack I cant believe the DCSS would submit that. Oh well and you wonder why the young blacks like to start trouble. They have been raised and groomed by their parents and the system to be that way. They like to see their stroy in print. Welcome the Thug City.

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Amazed2 2 years, 1 month ago

The results of the terror at the fireworks and the fights downtown at the movie in the park nights is the exact reason why the RiverQuarium, Turtle Park, Civic Center (already failed) and Downtown re-development will continue to fail. You simply cannot do enough goodwill marketing and positive advertising to counter gang fights and crowd terror. You might as well cut your losses and quit now. Take $25000 or so spent on firewokrs and find a better use for it. Maybe fund a library of something . In Albany downtown is dead. The gangs know that Scare Tactics work, I am really amazed the within hours the Police Chief who was not there comes out with a statement that NO Gang activity was involved. Im not sure that even if he was on scene last nigh that he could change the outcome but it should would be nice to know tha the bothered to come in to work at one of the largest crowd control events of the year. I think the City Commission and Mayor should ask for a full accounting from Chief Proctor of who and how many Senior Commanders were actually on duty at the scene last.night. And I dont mean sitting at home drinking a beer handling the calls by radio. Instead of being called the "Good Life City" it is fast becoming the "Good Bye City". Check out the growth in Lee County and also why does the DCSS need to close some schools. Simlple math calculations. Less Kid = Less Schools Needed.

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Amazed2 2 years, 1 month ago

Dear Bo Henry and Stuart Campbell you two guys look like friging Geniuses for abandoning Downtown when you did. And by the way you are.

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albanyherald1 2 years, 1 month ago

Why not do the fireworks at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds? I know that won't curb ALL the fighting and problems with some of the thug children, but maybe it will at least keep those that walk to downtown or hang in that area from coming.

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bigbob 2 years, 1 month ago

I will say again that the civic center or anything else will never make it in downtown Albany because any event after dark just isn't safe. Stray bullets kill to.

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