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Hundreds turn out for fireworks, food, fun

Enjoying hula hoops and treasure hunts, popcorn, cotton candy and Plinko, hundreds of folks came out Saturday night to kick off July with an early Independence Day celebration.

&uot;Celebrate America&uot; returned to the GHS Tiger Stadium at 6 p.m. on July 1. The Kandu Band warmed things up with their renditions of top country and pop hits.

An assortment of carnival games beckoned youngsters to try their hand at shooting hoops, tossing footballs, bean bags and rings to win a bevy of patriotic prizes. Kids also got to bounce in the inflatable castle, and attempt their best &uot;fast ball&uot; on the brave volunteers manning the dunk tank.

Brian Paulk, who was a &uot;dunkee&uot; in the dunking booth at last year’s event,

helped supervise the beanbag toss and ring toss. &uot;I’m planning to get in the booth again later,&uot; Paulk said with a grin.

Elayshenea Malone, age three, tried her hand at Celebrate America’s version of the famous Plinko game.

All it took was a boost up into a chair, plus a little assistance with those giant chips from Annie Glenn Branum of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, main sponsors for the event.

Malone, who also tried her hand at ring toss, soon was sporting prizes like a patriotic hat and red, white and blue foldable fan.

Plenty of kids visited volunteer Laura Tucker’s table, where the teen was emblazoning faces and hands with colorful tattoos – the temporary kind, of course.

Two-year-old Jess Causey seemed pleased with her patriotic peace sign &uot;tattoo.&uot; The pint-sized contestant later spun her hula hoop to victory as one of the top hoopsters in the contest and chose a stuffed animal as her prize.

Emcee Ralph Stacy, wearing an over-sized Uncle Sam hat, announced the dunking booth was open. It featured no less than Mike Looney, Butler County Schools Superintendent, on the &uot;suicide seat.&uot;

&uot;And the line is quickly forming,&uot; Stacy’s voice boomed out.

It was no exaggeration. A throng of hopefuls was soon waiting for a turn to try and dunk the &uot;super&uot; in the Hardee’s Booth.

A mischievous Meghan Branum of Greenville may not have been able to hit the Hardee’s &uot;star&uot; with her pitches, but a quick dash and punch of the lever soon had her superintendent soaked to the skin.

&uot;Awww, that’s cheating,&uot; Looney said as he came up for air.

(Branum was all smiles.)

Looney and Greenville High Principal, Dr. Kathy Murphy, both proved to be good-natured volunteers who got dunked plenty of times – legally and illegally.

&uot;It’s a good thing I’m not vain,&uot; laughed Murphy as she slicked back her wet hair and climbed back on the seat once again.

&uot;At least I’m staying nice and cool.&uot;

Later, Murphy’s daughter, Connor, and volunteer Brian Paulk also took the place of honor in the tank – possibly the coolest place in town.

Young Tydarrius Powell was one of those small people with a big aim who sent Murphy on a dip in the booth.

The little boy also took top honors during the treasure hunt, finding almost a dozen lucky coins in the sand-filled tub.

Hula contest entrants had to prove their mettle as hands and feet were waved in the air while they kept those hoops humming around their waists.

Kanisha Anderson, age eight, and Olivia Foster were some of the best hula-hoopers that evening, as were eight-year-old Jada Croxton and ten-year-old Haley Williams.

Foster and her little sister, Isabella &uot;Izzy B,&uot; also showed off their colorful tattoos, with Izzy B sporting patriot signs on both cheeks.

Escaped balloons sailed into the sultry air, while attendees munched on ears of roasted corn, ribs, burgers and hot dogs, guzzling down plenty of bottles of ice cold water and soft drinks provided by the Greenville High School Band Boosters. YMCA Director Amanda Phillips and her helpers did a brisk business supplying refreshing Sno-Kones to the thirsty crowd.

By 8:30 p.m., the stadium bleachers began filling up with folks of all ages eager to see the finale of the evening, a fireworks extravaganza.

&#8220Boy, it looks like we've got scads of folks out here tonight,” Stacy commented.

At 9 p.m., the &uot;rockets’ red glare&uot; and &uot;bombs bursting in air&uot; were in full display overhead. Lots of &uot;ooohs&uot; and &uot;aaahs&uot; were heard as dazzling showers of red, green, blue, purple and gold rained down high above their heads.

&uot;Wow, look at that one!&uot;

&uot;Ain’t that pretty!&uot;

&uot;It’s like stars are falling down on us!&uot;

Shouts, whistles and applause reverberated in the stands as the show drew to a close.

Filing out of the stadium, Angela James of Greenville smiled and nodded with satisfaction. &uot;A slice of Americana at its best,&uot; she said.