The surface of the Maumee River takes on a red glow as pyrotechnics explode overhead during the finale of Toledo's Independence Day celebration downtown.
The weekend celebration of America's 235th birthday came to a loud and colorful conclusion in Toledo Sunday night when the downtown sky exploded with fireworks.
The finale to the three-day Red, White, KABOOM festival featured a 23-minute aerial display with more than $50,000 worth of fireworks soaring and roaring over the Maumee River. The fireworks were synchronized to an All-American classic rock soundtrack produced by Toledo's WXKR-FM (94.5).
"This is fun. I haven't quite figured out what the event is all about, but it's fun," jazz flutist Alexander Zonjic said before taking the stage for a performance with his band last night.
"I love this setting," he said, sweeping a hand toward Promenade Park and the Maumee River, where dozens of boats were docked.
Joining him on stage was Joey Sommerville, a trumpeter for whom last night's concert was a homecoming.
A 1978 graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School, he has been working as a jazz artist and producer in Atlanta for 14 years.
The seven groups that performed Sunday made for an eclectic lineup, with a mix of reggae, classic rock, jazz, and a U.S. Navy band.
The wide range of musical styles is one of the reasons Bob Watson heads downtown every year on Independence Day weekend.
"It's the music -- and the diversity of the music -- that's the real draw for me," said Mr. Watson, 60, wearing a Vietnam Veterans ball cap.
He and his wife, Jenny, grabbed their usual spot under a shade tree near the children's play area.
The leafy limbs gave them some relief from the summer sun, which lifted temperatures to a high of 90 degrees at 4 p.m. Sunday.
"We grab a bite to eat and we listen to the music," Mr. Watson said. "We also meet friends and family here."
"And we people-watch," Mrs. Watson added.
The reason for the holiday, marking America's independence from Great Britain, is always in the forefront of Mr. Watson's mind.
"This is the greatest country in the world," he said. "Definitely."
John Robinson Block, left, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade, converses with Toledo Mayor Mike Bell at a buffet dinner for which The Blade was host aboard the newly renamed SS Schoonmaker, docked at International Park.
Sunday's activities included a wiener dog race and amusement rides in International Park, on the east side of the Maumee River.
Attendance was light early in the day but picked up as temperatures eased and the fireworks drew closer.
Ed Wertenberger and Kelly Pittman, two boating buddies from Ida, Mich., had docked their boats, Wet Bar and Badness, directly behind the main stage in Promenade Park.
"We got here at noon," Mr. Wertenberger. "We were surprised to get a slip this close."
In the Toledo Arts Center, a large tent set up next to Imagination Station, charms made out of soft drink cans, and T-shirts boosting Toledo pride were among the eye-catching attractions.
"It's our first outdoor event," said Michelle Clarkson, programs coordinator for the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo.
The Arts Commission invited artists from around the area to exhibit and sell their work for a $10 set-up fee, Ms. Clarkson said, adding that she reviewed applications and CDs of work just to make sure the art was "family appropriate."
Toledoan Max Reddish, 27, was selling T-shirts pumping up Toledo, including one that said, "Boring people hate Toledo."
"People who hate Toledo do their complaining from the couch. They never get out," said Mr. Reddish, whose grandfather Max Reddish was a city councilman and county commissioner.
The arts tent also featured a display of student work from the Toledo School for the Arts -- some original creations, others modeled after famous abstract artists.
The local works ranged from handmade jewelry to leather carvings to acrylic-painted sneakers.
Ashley Hunker, 25, an art enthusiast, said she welcomed the opportunity to see local work.
The event, she said, was "fun and festive," and she enjoyed seeing people of all different ages in attendance. But her favorite part of the festival, she added, was the nachos.
Food vendors dotted the perimeter of the park selling hand-cut fries and gelato, among other treats.
The festival also paid tribute to Army veterans, with a booth dedicated to selling pins.. Anyone actively serving in the military gained free admission.
Admission was free until 4 p.m.; after that it was $3 per person 12 and over.
Staff writer David Yonke contributed to this report.
Contact Zoe Gorman at: email@example.com or 419-724-6050.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.