Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
By Shelley Grieshop
Freedom festival brightens Grand Lake
Large crowds celebrate Fourth in Celina, state park
CELINA - Despite the heat, large crowds were on hand for this year's Freedom Days celebration along Grand Lake.
"We had some nice crowds Friday and Saturday. Sunday it was so hot ... attendance was down a little until later in the evening," said Bob Howell, one of the chairmen of the three-day festival along Lakeshore Drive in Celina.
A Grand Lake official reported lake traffic was the best it's been in about two years. Many boaters were anchored off Lakeshore Drive and West Bank Road to see the fireworks Saturday evening.
The display started about 10 minutes early after a storm threatened to nix the event. Streaks of heat lightning periodically lit up the sky in the west prior to the show.
Although temperatures reached the 90s on Saturday a subtle breeze helped cool festival-goers, Howell said. He also noted there was no foul smell from the lake; last year a unique form of blue-green algae left a stench in the area.
New events this year - an eight-team kickball tournament and a car show with 133 vehicles - were well attended and will be expanded next year, Howell said.
"We also had the most teams ever - 40 - for our cornhole tournament," he added.
Howell said "everybody was well-behaved" and no problems were reported.
"We really didn't have any major issues at all," Celina Police Chief Dave Slusser said.
Police arrested one person for disorderly conduct and another for attempting to bring beer onto festival grounds.
Also, several juveniles tore down a section of the orange dividing fence "because they were too lazy to go around," Slusser said. The minors were turned over to their parents, he said.
"I think everything went very well," he said, adding few disturbances are ever reported during Freedom Days.
The patriotic celebration is sponsored by Celina's American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Fraternal Order of Eagles and Moose Lodge. It began during the Fourth of July weekend in 2004 to honor the U.S. flag and all veterans who ensure our country's freedom.
The festival grossed nearly $80,000 in 2010. Revenues from this year's festival were not yet available. All profits help fund improvements to the city's lakefront.
Brian Miller, manager at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park, said the campground was about 90 percent full for the weekend and lake usage was the best it's been in about two years. He saw people boating, skiing, tubing and had reports of people swimming at the three boater beaches in the lake.
A public health advisory placed on the lake May 19 due to algae toxins advises against wading in the water and swallowing it, but allows boating.
Miller said he received no reports of anyone becoming ill.
Other than four operating while under the influence and other alcohol-related citations, the holiday weekend was "safe and successful," Miller said.
- Daily Standard reporter Nancy Allen contributed to this story.
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