Thousands turn out for city’s Fourth

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 5, 2002

Fireworks explode over the Levee Street Depot in Downtown Vicksburg Thursday night.(The Vicksburg Post/JON GIFFIN)

[07/05/02]Matt DeRossette sat with his four children on an American flag blanket in front of Washington Street watching purple, red, green, blue and silver fireworks sparkle.

They were among uncounted thousands who gathered in front of Vicksburg’s largest United States flag draped over the Levee Street Depot Thursday night and all along streets and throughout downtown neighborhoods to watch the Vicksburg Independence Day Celebration.

“We grabbed a blanket and found a spot,” DeRossette said. “You can’t get any better than this in Vicksburg.”

DeRossette’s 9-year-old daughter, Halley, said her favorite part of the night was watching the fireworks explode in the sky.

“I like how they made the sounds and how they made the shapes,” Halley said.

Lt. Daryl Collins of the Vicksburg Fire Department said about 3,500 people were in the immediate area watching before the fireworks show.

Charles S. Farris, 98, said he didn’t count but has never seen so many people gathered in Vicksburg.

“Never and I came here in 1926,” Ferris said.

Not all were locals. David Jiuliamti and his wife, Terry, of Lexington, Ky., celebrated his birthday and July Fourth by listening to the KAISO! steele drum band; Grammy-nominated blues singer Vasti Jackson; Guy Hovis; the Holiday Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; and by watching the fireworks display.

“I thought it would be special to see the fireworks over the Mississippi River,” he said. “I’m a Civil War buff so this is a great area to spend my Fourth of July.”

Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens said the celebration, the first and largest organized under city auspices in many years, exceeded his expectations.

People of all ages sat in lawn chairs, on blankets and stood while musicians sang and played instruments.

Leyens said the City of Vicksburg spent $10,000 on the Independence Day celebration while donations from the private sector amounted to $42,000.

While fireworks over the Yazoo Diversion Canal were common in the 1950s and 1960s, the celebrations ebbed until 1976 when bicentennial events were held at City Park Stadium. City and county officials alternated sponsorships for a few years, then stopped. In recent years, local officials have cited a lack of funds as the reason for no public celebrations.

Thursday night, University of Southern Mississippi percussion professor John Wooton’s KAISO! steel band began the evening with its calypso island-style music as crowds built.

“Anytime you get to play for this many people it’s a blast,” Wooton said.

Jay Dean, the director of the USM Orchestra, said Vicksburg has done a great job promoting the evening, and he looks forward to playing here again.

“We couldn’t be happier to be here,” Dean said. “This is an important event for Mississippi, for Vicksburg. We hope to make this event the July Fourth event in Mississippi.”

Dean said USM’s Symphony Orchestra and the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra composed the Holiday Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Along with singers Mary Ann Kyle and Heather Clancy Allen singing patriotic songs such as “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful,” Jackson sang legendary blues songs such as “The Thrill is Gone.”

“We’ll do this next year, I guarantee,” Leyens said. “It’s good to have a happy day in Vicksburg.”