07/05/09 — Fourth of July festivities are a tradition for many

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Fourth of July festivities are a tradition for many

By Laura Collins
Published in News on July 5, 2009 9:11 AM

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Children keep their eyes to the sky as they watch the fireworks near Berkeley Mall on Friday night.

Seventy-six-year-old May Sanders sat in her faded lawn chair along the sidewalk on Berkeley Boulevard Friday night. She had a cooler and a pack of sparklers nearby.

For many, holiday traditions center around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but Sanders said her longest-standing holiday tradition was celebrating the Fourth of July by going to parades, fireworks and working through a pack of sparklers.

"I think my family always made such a big deal out of the Fourth of July because my mother's birthday was on the fifth," she said. "My dad used to tell us the parades were also mini celebrations for her."

With her own children, and now grandchildren, Sanders made the fireworks and sparklers part of the yearly celebration.

"It rounds out the whole holiday. I mean, what's more American than fireworks?" she said.

"Actually fireworks are from China," her husband, Sam Sanders, quipped, but it didn't seem to damper her mood.

Friday, Sam and May Sanders watched the Berkeley Mall fireworks celebration with their two grandsons. At 11 and 12 years old, both at first objected to the sparklers, which they deemed for "little kids," but they soon forgot their objections and used the sparklers as swords and light sabers.

"Being here, watching them, makes me feel 40 years younger," she said.

Farther down the street, Stephanie Jones, 32, along with her parents, daughter and her daughter's friend, sat on lawn chairs in the bed of a pickup truck. Jones said she's been coming to the fireworks for at least 15 years.

"We come out every year. I remember coming when I was in my teens," she said. "It's just fun and it's something that we can all do together, just sit in the back of the truck, talk and watch the fireworks. It's exciting for the kids."

The festivities continued Saturday at Mount Olive's annual Fourth of July celebration at Westbrook Park. The children's parade kicked off at 4:30 p.m. followed by free food, entertainment and kids' games.

Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. said the turnout for the event was the largest he'd seen in 15 to 20 years.

"It's a timely celebration that you celebrate with your friends and neighbors, not just your family. This is a day you celebrate your city, state and federal government and freedoms you enjoy," he said. "If you think about the other holidays -- like Christmas and Thanksgiving -- you wouldn't be able to celebrate those other holidays freely without what was accomplished on the Fourth of July."

Nikki Cook, along with her 2-year-old daughter who had evidence of a Mt. Olive pickle still on her shirt, said she never misses the park celebration.

"It's just a great way to know the people around you," she said. "If you stand and talk to someone for more than five minutes, you can almost learn someone's whole life story. You find you know people in common and make new friends."

The day capped off with fireworks over the Mount Olive Airport.