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Published: Saturday, 7/5/2008

Toledo fireworks show caps opening day of festival

BY GABE NELSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The inaugural Red White KABOOM festival went out with a bang last night or 2,785 bangs, to be exact.

The fireworks show, which included almost 2,800 shells and lasted close to half an hour, capped off the first day of the festival, which Toledo Police Chief Michael Navarre estimated drew 150,000 people to Promenade Park in downtown Toledo yesterday.

For a backdrop, the fireworks display had Toledo Edison s vacant steam plant and COSI, the hands-on science museum that closed at the end of last year, but both planners and festival-goers looked toward the water, imagining a brighter future for downtown.

I like those big ones, 7-year-old Mariyah Cruz of Toledo said, sandwiched between her mom, Angela, and cousins behind O-I Plaza, on the steps near the waterfront. She was twisting two glow necklaces under her chin as the first fireworks exploded above her.

Toledo resident Paul Sagert, who planned to watch the fireworks from his boat with friends and family, said he frequents downtown events because he wants to see Toledo s waterfront transformed into an entertainment hub.

I love Toledo, he said. If there s anything I can do to support it, I m there.

Stacey Jarzeboski, left, of Maumee and Marvin Parker of Toledo dance while the stage crew makes changes between groups. The battle of the bands will continue today. Stacey Jarzeboski, left, of Maumee and Marvin Parker of Toledo dance while the stage crew makes changes between groups. The battle of the bands will continue today.
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The success of the Red White KABOOM festival, organized by local businesses after the collapse of CitiFest Inc, shows the downtown area s potential, Mr. Sagert said.

CitiFest, a city-chartered nonprofit organization that previously organized Toledo s July 4th festivities, disbanded in January after racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts.

Local companies, led by The Blade, stepped in to organize this year s festival.

It became almost a rallying point between the city and businesses to pull together a celebration for the citizens of the area, Dan Gallerno, the Blade s marketing manager, said. If we didn t come together as a business community and a city, then it wouldn t have happened.

Paulette Huber, a city event coordinator, said the festival s success showed the resilience of Toledo businesses even as the area s economy continues to struggle.

The festival, also featuring The Andersons tastetoledo food festival and The Blade/toledoblade.com Battle of the Bands, was a Toledo affair, with food from more than 15 local restaurants and music by more than a dozen local bands. The festival continues today, but without the fireworks.

Columbia Gas of Ohio and Taylor Auto Group sponsored the fireworks show, while the battle of the bands was sponsored by Verizon and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The rest of the day s festivities were sponsored by companies that included Mathews Ford, Toledo Harley-Davidson, and Signature Harley-Davidson.

Ms. Huber described events like Red White KABOOM as crucial because they draw people to downtown.

We re really working on putting together a lot of things on the waterfront to bring people downtown, she said.

The events here in downtown Toledo are critical to the future development down here.

Mr. Gallerno said organizers understood the economic hardships facing Toledoans and sought to make the festival an affordable destination. Attendance was free, with food items costing between $3 and $6.

The economy and gas prices will play well to get a lot of people down here, he said.

The battle of the bands featured 13 local acts on two stages, playing country, rock, jazz, blues, and acoustic folk.

The winners of the competition, which continues today, will open for Bo Bice, Ted Nugent, and Gary Allan at The Andersons Northwest Ohio Rib-Off next month.

Carol Chappuis of Point Place, who went to the waterfront yesterday with her husband, Richard, said she appreciated the festival s local focus, adding that tastetoledo s restaurant lineup showed the variety of cuisine Toledo has to offer.

The food festival, organized by the Northwest Ohio Restaurant Association, offered international flavors from Asian to Middle Eastern to Italian, but vendors dished up food with a red, white, and blue flair fitting for Independence Day.

Petit Fours Patisserie, a Perrysburg pastry shop, sold vanilla and chocolate butter-cream cupcakes studded with miniature American flags.

The Blarney, a downtown Irish pub, flew a red, white, and green flag, with shamrocks replacing the American flag s familiar stars, while Busia s Narozny, a West Toledo Polish restaurant, had an American flag fluttering on one corner of its booth and a Polish flag flying on the other.

It s a great sampling of our city, Ms. Huber said.

Dozens of boats filled the water yesterday evening as fireworks echoed across the Maumee River.

People filled the patios at the restaurants in International Park.

Music filled the air.

It could not have turned out any more glorious, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said of the event.

Mr. Finkbeiner spoke from a private party held on the second-floor patio of the shuttered COSI building.

Its a difficult time for our nation, a difficult time for the Midwest, and a difficult time for Toledo [and] Lucas County. I see tonight every kind of people very, very grateful and thankful.

Councilman Mark Sobczak, who was at the same party, remarked on the presence of so many boaters: We haven t seen that in a good, long time. Also at the party was U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).

Mike Smith of Sylvania, on a boat with three friends at the International Park docks yesterday, said he wants downtown to come alive again, but not just once or twice a year, when fireworks light up the sky.

New bars on the waterfront could bring people, Mr. Smith said. So could free summer concerts.

People will come, Mr. Smith said. You ve got to have something that makes people want to come.

Staff writer Bridget Tharp contributed to this report.

Contact Gabe Nelson at: gnelson@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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