July 10, 2003
Weather doesn’t dampen spirits during bicentennial celebration
Rainstorms and wicked lightning rolled through town, but it couldn’t put a damper on four days of events centered on Yellow Springs and its people during the bicentennial celebration last weekend.
The weather was a factor in the weekend, causing the annual 4th of July fireworks display to be postponed twice and interrupting a dance and concert on Saturday.
A significant crowd showed up for the fireworks display, sponsored by the Yellow Springs Lions Club, on Friday night, July 4, at Gaunt Park.
But a sudden blast of wind around 8:45 was followed by a darkening sky, and police corraled spectators out of the park for shelter. The torrents that followed left only one man on the field, fireworks shooter Ron Richter, who took cover in his truck to guard the fireworks during the night.
When Saturday’s rain date had to be rescheduled one more day, Richter disassembled his charge and returned Sunday afternoon to reset them.
The mostly local crowd gathered once more under a darkening sky on Sunday evening. Carol Gasho, a member of the Lions Club, said that she and interim Police Chief John Grote were determined that the show would go on Sunday. “John Grote and I decided we were going to have fireworks that night no matter what, even if the crowd didn’t show up,” Gasho said.
As a light rain fell, umbrellas sprouted throughout the crowd, signalling that spectators were as resolute as the organizers. The first colorful eruptions in the sky drew extra fervent “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience who had waited longer than anyone could remember for their 4th of July fireworks.
The show so delighted one audience member, Susan Bothwell, who was in town for a high school reunion, she yelled out at the end, “And the headline will be, ‘It was well worth the wait!’ ”
The weather was also a factor on Saturday night, causing a sock hop reunion party at the Bryan Center and a concert at Peach’s Grill to stop when the Village tornado signals announced that a tornado warning was issued for Greene County.
Around 9:30 p.m. the 80 or so Bryan High alums at the sock hop were herded to the ground floor hallway to wait out the storm. Cellphones were pulled out as people called family members and storm watchers, and part of the crowd from Peach’s Grill, where a concert was temporarily halted, straggled in for safe cover.
Less than an hour later an all-clear signal went out, and the sock-hoppers started bopping to music by Chubby Checker, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.
The party at Peach’s raged on with a rock, blues and R&B showcase featuring Natural Facts, Paul’s Apartment and the Reptile Brothers: Nick and Greg Dewey, Tim Eschliman, Carl Schumacher, John MacQueen, Steve Holser, Roth Patterson and Tucki Bailey. Relieved not to have been lifted up into the sky by a funnel cloud, the people danced and danced.
Even the daylong celebration on Saturday at the Bryan Community Center got off to a slow start because of an intermittent drizzle. By in the afternoon, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, and a couple of hundred people came throughout the day to hear folk music and a barbershop quartet group, and watch magic by Bill Alexander.
Balloons representing the flags of the nationalities of people now living in Yellow Springs were positioned along the walkway on the Bryan Center’s front lawn. Fifty-four countries were identified, including Argentina, Greece, France, Nigeria and Romania.
The heat warmed up the inside of the entertainment tent, while outside it was even hotter, but still people strolled around to get cheesecake at the Dharma Center booth and view the baby trees at the Tecumseh Land Trust booth.
And when they got too hot they stepped into the Bryan Center gym, where at least 20 displays were set up by Yellow Springs organizations, churches and businesses.
Former local resident Karen Klausen, who now lives in Norway, scheduled a three-week visit to Yellow Springs around the bicentennial weekend, which also included her 20th Yellow Springs High School class reunion. She said that about 60 people were expected to attend a dinner on Saturday night for the Class of ’83. This was the first reunion for Klausen, which she called fun.
Watching some of the entertainers with her sons, Ben and Peder, at the Bryan Center, Klausen, said that it had been a “great weekend.”
While the weather interrupted some of the events during part of the weekend, it was hot and sunny on Friday during the Bicentennial Parade and the afternoon of music at Peach’s.
The parade included more than 300 people from 40 groups. “I couldn’t believe how they just kept streaming into the parking lot at The Antioch Company,” where the parade started, said Beth Holyoke, who organized the event.
Holyoke said one local resident told her that “everyone in town was here” for the parade.
A police cruiser set the pace at the head of the long caravan of colors, music, antique machines, American flags, and familiar faces. Bryan High School alumni danced beside a car representing at least six classes holding reunions last weekend. Antioch School children on unicycles wobbled by members of the Community Band who were blowing their horns from the back of a flatbed trailer. Larger than life papier-mâché puppets of Horace Mann, Helen Birch Bartlett and Wheeling Gaunt sauntered in front of children perched on their fathers’ backs.
One of the groups that participated in the parade was the Community Children’s Center, which had at least 25 children in the event. The center’s director, MJ Richlen, said that the center had to participate in the parade.
“We’re just such a strong part of the community, I couldn’t see how we couldn’t be in the parade,” she said.
Spectators lined up along the entire parade route, on Dayton Street, Limestone Street and Xenia Avenue. As the parade slowly moved along its route, people cheered and took photographs.
Local resident Kingsley Perry was videotaping the parade because he had three grandchildren in it. He said the parade was “absolutely spectacular.” “They should do it every year,” he said.
After the parade ended, participants and spectators gathered at the Bryan Center to get a cold drink, catch their breaths and watch Pop Wagner perform.
This was followed by a long afternoon of music at Peach’s, where local musical groups jammed, starting with the YSHS punk band Five Foot Setback.
The restaurant’s patio was overflowing with people as some danced in the parking lot in the late afternoon sun, listening to Gerry Green sing under a tent with drummer Greg Dewey, Cary Colbert on percussion, Mark Crockett playing bass and guitarists Nerak Roth Patterson and Tim Eschliman.
—Lauren Heaton, Diane Chiddister, and Robert Mihalek