On the first Independence Day since last fall's terrorist attacks, the fireworks celebration had extra meaning to four sisters from Virginia visiting their Toledo cousins.
“We wanted to go all out for the festival because of what happened Sept. 11, because we almost lost our Dad,” said Kimberly Oswald, 17, who lives about an hour south of Washington.
Dr. Richard Oswald, a Navy captain, was scheduled to be in a meeting in the part of the Pentagon that was hit by a hijacked plane. But his plans changed a day earlier, likely sparing his life. Many of his friends, however, died when the plane crashed into the building.
So, feeling more patriotic than ever, his daughters and niece yesterday dyed their hair red and blue; donned red, white, and blue hats and shirts; and speckled their legs and faces with flag stickers.
They were among a crowd that authorities estimated at more than 75,000 to watch Toledo's fireworks last night in Promenade Park. It was one of about 25 firework shows in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan this week.
The Light the Night program, which shoots off $40,000 worth of fireworks in 20 minutes, draws a bigger downtown crowd than any other event, said Jan Aguilar, executive director of CitiFest, Inc., the organizer.
“I think there's something about fireworks that brings out the kid in all of us,'' she said.
Nancy Magris of southwest Toledo, wearing an Uncle Sam hat and star-pattern vest, regretted that she hadn't had time to paint her nails with stars and stripes or eagles as she has often done for the holiday.
One of the youngest watching the show was Edgar Juarez-Lopez, age 7 months from Detroit, who was wide-eyed and happy as his father, Nelson Juarez, held him up to see the colorful explosions.
“I thought he was going to be scared and cry but he's actually enjoying it,'' his father said.
Blocks from the park, Charlotte Poindexter and 20 relatives from five states spread their blankets at Superior and Jackson streets. Years ago, they would walk down to the park, then spend 11/2 hours trying to get back to her West Toledo home.
“Remember the year it was raining, and we were drenched to our underwear and the babies were crying?” she asked. “It was horrible.”
Since then, they've sprawled out on the grass less than a block from where they park, avoiding traffic jams.
Temperatures were in the 80s and skies were clear when the fireworks began. But rain in the middle of the afternoon halted children's activities in the park for about 45 minutes, and the heat likely limited the crowd earlier in the day. The National Weather Service recorded a high of 96 at Toledo Express Airport at 1:28 p.m., which is 10 degrees above the average high for July 4 and 3 de- grees shy of the record set in 1990.
But considerable humidity made it feel like 100 to 105 degrees in the hottest part of the afternoon, said Red Blazer, a weather service meteorologist.
Extra security precautions were taken because of national threats of Independence Day terrorism. Ms. Aguilar said Toledo police had about 100 officers and a command post at the park.
The fireworks were shot off by a new company, Colonial Fireworks Co. of Adrian.. Total expenses for yesterday's celebration - including entertainment and children's activities - were estimated at $65,000. Food Town grocery stores and Pepsi Cola each contributed $25,000.
Fireworks and other independence celebrations will continue throughout the holiday weekend in northwest Ohio.
In Oak Harbor, the celebration starts at 6 p.m. today with music followed by fireworks at 10 p.m.
Swanton's chamber of commerce will host a party in Memorial Park starting at 6 tonight.
In Woodville, fireworks at dusk tomorrow in Trailmarker Park end its four-day celebration.
In Clyde, the recreation department will host activities starting at 2 p.m. in Community Park with fireworks at dusk.