Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Friday, July 3, 2009 | 1:41 a.m.
Thousands of revelers filled Seastrand Park in North Las Vegas on Thursday to kick off the Fourth of July weekend at the 10th annual North Las Vegas Independence Day Jubilee.
This year’s jubilee was themed “A Tribute to Our Troops.” Organizers said they chose the theme as a reminder of the sacrifices that have made Independence Day possible.
“Really, the reason we can celebrate on this day is because of our armed forces, so we wanted to say thank you to them for allowing the freedoms that we have;” said Aneessa Snowden, recreation coordinator for the city of North Las Vegas.
The evening’s events, which included performances by local bands M.O.C.C.A. and Skip Eaton and the Soul’d Out Band, were kicked off by a special tribute to America’s armed forces.
Members of the military were joined on stage by family members of enlisted servicemen, who read poems about the importance of thanking the troops.
The jubilee was sponsored by organizations and businesses, including Blue Star Mothers of Southern Nevada, a support network for military mothers and family members. The group staffed an information booth and sponsored an activity tent where children could decorate cards to send with care packages to troops.
“They’re very special. It brings them a little bit of home,” said chapter President Sandra Kuta, whose 19-year-old son enlisted at age 17.
Picnic blankets and lawn chairs covered the park’s grass well before the 9:30 p.m. fireworks show, as attendees danced to live music and enjoyed face-painting and other attractions. While plenty of people came out for the free activities, funnel cake and fireworks, freedom and its price were on the minds of many.
“The Fourth of July means to me that we remember the people who die for our country. They fought for our freedom,” said 9-year-old Cole Truitt as he penned a letter wishing troops a safe journey home.
Cherly Lewis, who was wearing white shorts and red and navy layered tank tops, said she has been coming to the jubilee for about four years because the event is fun and well-run. As a retired member of the Air Force, she said this year’s theme hit especially close to home.
“It’s because of them we can do this. They’re giving their lives, their limbs... so we can get together for things like this and have the freedom to enjoy it,” she said. “It’s very important for people to remember because they still don’t remember enough.”
Bo Bastion, who also served in the military, and his wife, Nikki, have been attending the North Las Vegas Independence Day celebration since its inception 10 years ago. This year, they were joined by their four children, ages 8 through 18, and Bo Bastion’s best friend and his family.
While the Bastions enjoy the live music — it’s a mix of “our music from back in the day and all the recent songs,” Nikki Bastion explained — what they really appreciate is a night of free entertainment spent with family and friends.
After more than two hours of live performances and events, the field went dark for the much-anticipated fireworks show. For more than 10 minutes, the dazzling display exploded in shimmering bursts of red, green and blue and sent shooting star-like rockets zigzagging through the night sky.
“It was probably the biggest thing I’ve seen since I’ve been out here,” said 15-year-old Matt Houghton, who has lived in the Las Vegas area for four years.
With another chance to celebrate the county’s birthday just days away, participants said they appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the real meaning of July 4.
“The fireworks are great. It’s the icing on the cake, but the core of the story is our country’s independence,” Kuta said.