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Published: Sunday, 9/1/2002

Scaled-back activities draw smaller crowds to Labor Day event

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A pleasant evening chill signaled summer's decline yesterday, but spring-like flowers bloomed in the sky as fireworks burst over the Maumee River.

The massive fireworks display was the main attraction at the scaled-down version of the annual Labor Day festival organized by CitiFest, Inc.

The fireworks began at dusk, but some music fans gathered in Promenade Park earlier in the evening to hear two local bands, Glinda's Bubble and Skoobie Snaks. “We come down here every year. We love listening to the bands,” Susan Ayers of South Toledo said.

She was among the few hundred people who spread blankets and canvas chairs on the lawn hours before the fireworks.

She said many more people attended previous Labor Day weekend festivals. “The park is usually jammed.”

Last year's three-day RiverFest included graffiti artists, skateboard demonstrations, and crafts for children. Because of budget woes, CitiFest cut back all its events this year.

Some visitors were able to create their own fun. Denise Clark of West Toledo tossed buckeye-bearing fruits around the grass. Her 7-year-old daughter, Lindsay, scrambled around collecting them in an unusual game of fetch.

“We came for the fireworks,” Mrs. Clark said. “We didn't get a chance to come down here for the Fourth of July.”

Thelma Huntley also was looking forward to the fireworks as she relaxed on a plastic-weave lawn chair with a box of caramel popcorn on her lap. She fed a few kernels to her friend's daughter, Kara, who toddled to the treat with open palms.

Police were prepared for a crowd of more than 10,000 people. Only about 3,000 people showed up for the fireworks, officers said.

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“We'd rather err on the safe side and have more officers than we need,” Toledo police Sgt. Richard Murphy said.

The officers and spectators alike enjoyed the weather, which drew dozens of pleasure boaters to the river. They sailed past the billowing flags of the U.S. Brig Niagara, a visiting museum ship.

“It's not raining - it's just perfect. It's a perfect day for fireworks,” said 7-year-old Jeremy Keil.

The folksy-rock sounds of Glinda's Bubble and the pop dance tunes played by Skoobie Snaks delighted many in the crowd, but some spectators couldn't shake the park's empty feeling.

Terry White and his girlfriend, Christina Berlanga, traveled from Jackson, Mich., for the event, expecting the varied activities of years past. “They need something for kids down here if it's going to be a family event,” Mr. White said. “Compared to a few years ago, it's really dead.”



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