The city of Sherman and thousands of Texoma area residents celebrated the Independence Day holiday on Monday night with the eighth annual Lights on the Lake concert and fireworks show.


The event drew an estimated 8,000-10,000 people to Pecan Grove Park, where they enjoyed food from local eateries and festivities before the main attractions: the classic rock tunes of headliner Three Dog Night and a 20-minute, choreographed fireworks display over the lake.


“This has to be the best and most organized year yet,” Sherman Tourism/Main Street Manager Sarah McRae said. “Each little facet of it, we’ve improved upon.”


McRae said the city’s annual Independence Day celebration got some serious upgrades this year, particularly through expanded parking and improved traffic routing. But she said the improvement that has made the biggest difference in Lights on the Lake and the larger Hot Summer Nights concert series, has been the booking of big name bands and musicians in recent years.


“We like carrying on the idea of Sherman being a good place to hear some live music,” McRae said. “We’ve really reached out and have gotten to book some of these bands that we weren’t even sure we could get and people have really responded positively.”


And while McRae said the musical lineup of this year’s Lights on the Lights was likely the main driver behind a nearly double increase in attendance over 2016, she said the city may very well have pulled bigger crowds through the use of new advertising mediums, including billboards and audio commercials on the music-streaming site Pandora.


“We got to try a lot of new marketing this year to try to reach people and make sure they knew what was going on,” McRae said. “And people have really turned out this year.”


Sherman Mayor David Plyler said Lights on the Lake is a great and free event for families, and while the city has upped its spending on talent for the Hot Summer Nights concert series, it has increased tourism revenue and put Sherman on the map as an arts destination.


“Last year, we experienced a bump in our Hotel-Motel Tax receipts and we attribute that to people coming in, staying at our hotels and eating at our restaurants when they come to see these artists,” Plyler said. “And we expect it to be even larger this year.”


Lights on the Lake regulars Ethan and Stephanie Shelby threw down a blanket and played with one-year-old daughter Keeley as they waited for the sun to go down and the main events to begin. Ethan said young Keeley went with the couple to the show last year when she was just a month old, but at that time, she wasn’t too interested in the festivities.


“It’s her second show, but it will actually be the first one she gets to see,” Shelby said. “The first one, she was asleep the whole time.”


The Shelbys said they go to Lights on the Lake every year because all the offerings and shows allow them to have fun as a family. And with thousands of their neighbors sitting close by on the lawn, Stephanie said there’s always a good chance to run into familiar faces and to celebrate America’s birthday with old friends.


“It’s good to have everybody together,” Shelby said. “You see people that you haven’t connected with in years.”