NEW CASTLE —
The entire city’s focus was downtown Saturday afternoon and evening.
The 22nd annual Fireworks Festival once again did its very best to capture the city’s attention. After all, New Castle is the Fireworks Capital of America, and the capital did not disappoint.
Thousands of people packed the Columbus Inner Belt, marking the only time of year the street is packed with people instead of cars.
This year’s festival had several first-time attractions according to JoAnn McBride, Lawrence County Tourism Promotion Agency director and part of the festival’s event staff.
“We have a lot of new things this year, including a greatly expanded children’s area,” she said.
One of those new attractions was the children’s stage. David Newell — better known as Mr. McFeely, the deliveryman from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood — made a “speedy delivery,” which was a fan favorite. Children laughed and sang with Newell as he performed a puppet show for them.
The new children’s stage also featured magician Bob Mullens, the Lancerettes, and the Dairy Princess giant sundae.
Also new to the festival were costumed characters. Batman, The Riddler and Snow White walked the Inner Belt and posed for pictures with kids.
Along with the many children’s games, and attractions was an area where adults helped show interested kids the fundamentals of popular sports, like soccer, basketball and street hockey.
Video: Ashley Hautala’s sights and sounds from the big event.
The traditional Lego building contest was another event for children, which saw kids construct everything from houses to hotels. Winners received gift cards from local businesses.
The traditional food vendors, craft tables and rock-climbing wall also made their yearly appearances.
The main stage entertainment kicked off the final stretch for the festival with performances by the Red Mountain Boys, the New Castle Playhouse Mini Stars and the Rocket to the Stars competition.
The annual Ducky Derby also was held, albeit in untraditional fashion. Swollen water levels from bad weather earlier in the week made it impossible to drop the ducks into the Neshannock Creek. Organizer Fran Davidson said the water was high and swift, and that the conditions were too dangerous to hold the derby as usual.
Instead, the ducks were kept in the front end loader that was to have dumped them into the creek, and mixed continuously. They were then drawn out of the loader to determine the winners.
“It was the only thing we could do,” she said.
Davidson said this was only the second time in her 11 years with the derby that the ducks weren’t dropped in the water.
However the poor weather from earlier in the week did not put a damper on the festival’s final hurrah.
The night concluded with a fireworks finale by Pyrotechnico that captured the entire festival’s — maybe even the entire city’s — attention as the explosions lit up the night sky.
The bright-colored blasts are the trademark of the Fireworks Capital of America.