Fourth of July festivities drew thousands of residents and spectators to downtown Denison Wednesday for the city’s annual fireworks display and concert.


The event was held in Munson Stadium and the surrounding Forest Park, where organizers estimated 5,000 people gathered to celebrate the holiday. Those who attended the show listened to live music performed by the Cheri King Band and watched a 30-minute fireworks display which was launched at dusk and choreographed to radio-broadcast music.


“This has been a premiere event in Denison for 31 years,” Denison Mayor Janet Gott said. “It just gets bigger and bigger and it not only allows the citizens of Denison to celebrate, but it also allows folks throughout the region to come and join us.”


Main Street Director Donna Dow said planning for the annual show is a year-long process and always centers on two Independence Day staples.


“The event’s focus is, of course, on fireworks and music,” Dow said. “That has been the long-standing tradition, as has it been to host it in the stadium.”


Dow said her goal as Main Street director is to get more people to explore downtown Denison and the show’s central location is highly effective in increasing foot traffic in the area.


“Somebody had described it before as a Norman Rockwell-ish experience,” Dow said of the Fourth of July celebration. “That’s about the best way I could capture it. It’s just a perfect hometown experience. Everybody’s in a great mood, visiting with others and celebrating our nation’s independence.”


But Gott said the history of Independence Day and its meaning resonates particularly well in Denison because it is the birthplace of late President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Denison native rose through the ranks of the U.S. Army to become a general and led World War II operations against the Japanese and Germans in Europe, the Pacific and North Africa.


“Not only was he a great president, but he was a great and very accomplished general in the second World War,” Gott said. “He made contributions to freedom all over the world and that means a lot to Denison.”


Vickie Ballard found herself a spot to watch the fireworks under a large tree in Frontier Park. Ballard said she was glad to have attended all of Denison’s 30 previous Independence Day celebrations and while the fireworks would be great entertainment for her family, she hoped event attendees would celebrate the significance of the Fourth of July.


“I don’t think it’s about the fireworks,” Ballard said. “It’s about remembering what the definition of the holiday is. If it wasn’t for founding fathers, our soldiers, the police officers and firefighters, we might not have the freedom to enjoy this today.”


That was a sentiment with which Gott agreed.


“How very, very fortunate we are to be free,” Gott said. “We live in an amazing country and I think we should never take that for granted.”