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Community flocks to Thompson Park for July 4 concert, fireworks

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WATERTOWN — As they have for years, April Ann T. Young and a group of 20 family members and friends made a picnic for Wednesday night’s concert and Fourth of July week fireworks in Thompson Park.

“We wouldn’t miss it,” said Ms. Young, sipping a glass of Riesling from the Thousand Islands Winery as the group munched on veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, macaroni salad and chicken wings.

The crowd started forming long before the scheduled start of the music at 5:30 p.m., spreading colorful blankets and camping chairs on the inviting hill. With just a few clouds in the sky about 7 p.m., about 1,500 had already gathered.

Organizers expected more than 5,000 celebrants by the time the first fireworks went off.

Ms. Young and her group recalled one year when rain caused the fireworks to be canceled, but on Wednesday, the party was ready to join the rest of the crowed in a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” while watching the fireworks.

The popular event is in its 30th year, but it nearly ended in 2011. The sudden demise of the bankrupt Syracuse Symphony cast a doubt on the ritual featuring Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” with cannons from Fort Drum.

But a group of organizers stepped in and saved the celebration. Working with a number of sponsors, the North Country Arts Council has taken over as producer of the event. Now dubbed “The Concert in the Park,” the celebration features the Orchestra of Northern New York, including professional musicians, students, alumni and professors from SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.

On Wednesday night, they paid tribute to the theme “Bravo Broadway,” with tunes from such shows as “West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Phantom of the Opera” as well as patriotic music like “Liberty Fanfare.”

Local rock band Wagner’s Agenda and Northern Blend, a ladies’ barbershop chorus, also took to the stage.

The show also honored military veterans.

“They’re an eclectic group,” said arts council board President Kris D. Marsala soon after the barbershop chorus finished its set.

Adams resident Elsie M. Mullin relaxed on a contraption called a “canopy mesh chair” that had a small plastic roof to protect her from the blaring sun, while friend Angela V. Marra chilled out nearby underneath a large, yellow umbrella.

To make sure they were all there, the two women marked the day on their calendars, she said.

Lillian E. Marra, 7, sat on her mother’s lap in anticipation of the first boom of the fireworks.

“I love them all,” the girl said, unable to pick a favorite.

A short distance away, Angel W. Fernandez used a red wand to make bubbles that his 5-year-old daughter, Penelope, and her two friends chased.

It’s a celebration they would not miss, Mr. Fernandez said.

“We come for the fireworks, of course,” he said.

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