Second annual Niles Fourth of July celebration draws hundreds

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Friday morning's stormy weather could have put a damper on the second annual Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Celebrations at Riverfront Park in Niles.
But luckily, it didn't.
The roughly 600 people who attended the Independence Day celebrations were upon their arrival to the park greeted by the sound of patriotic songs from loudspeakers placed at the Amphitheater stage.
Twelve churches and several not-for-profit organizations organized stands edging the Riverfront Park parking lot and served visitors free foods, such as cotton candy, watermelons and popcorn.
In addition, the churches and volunteer organizations had fun activities for the children, including a watermelon-eating contest, basketball shoot, tug of war, and a chess tournament, to name but a few.
Tracy Leach with Hope Community Church organized the basketball shoot.
Like all other activities, entering the basketball shoot was free of charge, as was much of the food on offer.
In her second year organizing the basketball event, she said the Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration at Riverfront Park in Niles is fun and a great opportunity to celebrate freedom and independence.
Tumbleson spent Friday morning and afternoon helping out the Portage Road General Baptist Church, whose main attraction was a helium balloon filling stand
Seeing the happy faces on young children walking away from the church's stand with colorful helium filled balloons in their hands, Tumbleson said celebrating the Fourth to her is a sign of freedom and independence.
Her views were mirrored by Joel Barrett, the event's site coordinator assistant.
While participating in one of the chess competitions held at the park Friday, Barrett said the Fourth means a lot to him.
Barrett, however, said it means more to celebrate the Fourth now than it used to, especially after the September 11 attacks on New York's World Trade Center.
But although the Fourth to Barrett is about celebrating freedom and independence, he still looks forward to dusk and the fireworks.
Having already travelled and seen a little bit of the world, Barrett said he is glad to be an American.
Tom Clabaugh and his daughter, Tricia, helped Huntly Memorial Baptist Church with their stand during Friday's Fourth of July celebrations.
They both enjoy celebrating the Fourth and the added opportunity it gives to spend time with family and friends in happy celebrations.
But for Tom, celebrating the Fourth is also a time to reflect on the many sacrifices people have made for the country in the past.
In addition to the stands edging the parking lot, Friends of the Library, Cass District Library's Howard Branch, were gathered on the lawn behind the parking lot facing the St. Joseph River.
Staci Reith, one of the library's friends, said they wanted to take advantage of the Fourth of July celebrations to encourage people to read more.
Mary Ann Burdue, another friend of the library, sat in a rocking chair and read stories to the children, who gathered around her, seated on a large blanket.

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