JACKSONVILLE — A crowd covered the field Thursday night at the Jacksonville High School football stadium to celebrate the Fourth of July one day early.
Children stood with their parents in long lines to wait for face painting, area politicians manned the gates to pass out pamphlets and patriotic flags for coming elections and the nearby parking lot was filled past capacity. Meanwhile, local country musician Riley Green sang on a stage near one end zone and more cars lined nearby roads where families filled the beds of pickup trucks in the minutes leading up to the 9 p.m. fireworks display.
"I think we have people from all over here," Jacksonville City Councilwoman Sandra Sudduth said of the annual event. "I'm really proud to see how it has grown."
Jacksonville's fireworks display was one of two major Independence Day celebrations in Calhoun County this year. The City of Oxford is hosting a day-long celebration for the Fourth of July today at Oxford Lake.
The Oxford event kicks off at 8 a.m. and ends after dark with a fireworks display. Several people in Jacksonville said they came out to the event to hear music, see fireworks and play games. Many attendees also talked about the patriotic significance behind Independence Day.
"We tend to forget what it's all about until you have a holiday for it," said Tawana Conaway, who came out with her grandson to see the Calhoun County Community Band play.
Some attendees came from communities across the area, including Weaver and Coldwater. Others, like Jill Waters, who came with her family, just had to walk across the street from nearby subdivisions.
"It's great because we see people that we haven't seen since last year," said Waters. "It's really cool that pretty much the whole town can fit in one football field."
The event began at 5:30 p.m. and culminated with the fireworks show, which was attended by so many that almost an hour after it ended, area roads remained packed with cars full of people headed home.