Thousands of people made their way to Lindsey Park on Saturday to celebrate Independence Day. In its second year since taking over the fireworks show from the disbanded Tyler Jaycees, the city attempted to raise the bar and succeeded.

The Tyler Police Department began setup Friday, closing off the softball fields to ensure a safe blast radius during the fireworks display. With an expected 1,175 shells, ranging from 3 to 8 inches in size, a safe radius meant moving the crowd to the soccer fields across the street.

The event kicked off with music by Dustin Becker and the Kopastetics and later the Bigsbys, sponsored by Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q. The three acts, all regulars in the East Texas music scene, helped concentrate the crowd around a pavilion flanked by fair food vendors.

Thousands had streamed into the park by 7 p.m., and Community Response Unit Lieutenant Robert Barrentine said they were expecting anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 residents to show up.

Flags were waving in the breeze mounted on vehicles, canopies and chairs. East Texans showed their patriotism, wearing flag-themed gear from head to toe.

Lydia Rutherford and Jennifer Vick were no exception. Ms. Rutherford was wearing a flag tank top and top hat, while Mrs. Vick was wearing a shirt with an American flag-colored kitten.

“I haven’t gone a year without missing fireworks, whether it’s driving around or coming out here,” Mrs. Vick said. “We’ve been coming here since I was a little girl. This is the first year that we’re here without my dad.”

“Happy Birthday America!” Ms. Rutherford added.

The Neely family came out in full force, with nine family members playing games and enjoying the music before the show.

Mrs. Neely said the kids were most excited for the fireworks.

The atmosphere was festive, with Dustin Becker and the Kopastetics getting the crowd on their feet in the sweltering heat. Others were checking out the row of fair food vendors that ran down the sidewalk.

“I want to see some fireworks. I think it’s great for the city of Tyler to put on things in the park, and I wish they would do more things in the park to open it up for things like music festivals,” comedian Jamey Whitley said. “I feel as patriotic as John Wayne riding on the back of a bald eagle griffon.”

Twitter: @TMT_Cory

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