A rip-roaring Fourth of July

Friday, July 6, 2012
Just a sample of the fireworks display, sponsored by Elks Lodge No. 579, at Fort Scott Community College Wednesday evening.(James R. Campbell/Special to the Tribune)

On a shady patch of grass underneath a large tree in the square of Fort Scott National Historic Site, about 40 visitors sat on wooden benches celebrating Independence Day on Wednesday like it was 1776.

The Fort Scott National Historic Site hosted an Old-Fashioned Military holiday featuring period music, cannon firing and a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

"I'm sure a lot of you know that document, but how many have read the entire document?" Ranger Robert Thomas asked the crowd. "That's what we're going to do today."

With her torch lit, Burke Street Parade co-organizer Margaret Humphrey embodies the Statue of Liberty with her husband, Merl, taking on the role of Uncle Sam during the Independence Day neighborhood celebration. About 50 spectators lined Burke Street for the annual procession.(Angelique McNaughton/Tribune)

Thomas recited the words that the nation's founding fathers agreed to some 236-years earlier, "When in the course of human events ...," he began in front of a captivated audience.

With the help of other infantry and dragoon soldiers, volunteers and staff read the declaration document mid-afternoon. A gentle breeze accompanied the list of grievances, as read, during the triple-digit heat.

About 120 people frequented the fort throughout the mid-week holiday for various programs and activities, including free homemade ice cream and music from the Blue & Gray Brass Brigade.

A young Fort Scott resident holds a dog in her lap while managing to drive an electric car decorated with American flags during the Burke Street Parade on Wednesday. (Angelique McNaughton/Tribune)

Audience members tapped their toes to early 1800s music or sang along to more well-known classics such patriotic classics as "Yankee Doodle Dandy" or war-time favorites like "Over There," both by George M. Cohan.

Joy Wiltse of Fort Scott said she came out to the fort because, "it's hard for me to stay home."

"I grew up in a little town that had a big celebration, and to me it's just a day to get out and celebrate doing things with the community," Wiltse said.

A line of customers waiting to pay for their fireworks, brave the sweltering heat at the Jake's Fireworks stand in the parking lot of Woods Supermarket, 2500 S. Main St., on Wednesday afternoon. Fireworks were legal within county and city limits only on July 4.(Angelique McNaughton/Tribune)

Escaping the heat inside the Visitor's Center and busy handing out maps, FSNHS volunteer Patsy Herman said she was content with the attendance for the day.

"It's been very busy," Herman said. "I'm very pleased with the crowd we've had."

"We have those faithfuls who just love it," she said.

Fireworks at the Elks display thrilled crowds Wednesday night.(Ruth Campbell/Tribune)

FSNHS Park's Department teacher Mary Jane Hansel said a decent portion of the visitors weren't local.

"It's awesome. We've had a lot of out-of-towners," she said. "People have been very patriotic and happy. I'm glad to see people with good attitudes."

Some visitors hailed from Kansas City, Lecompton, Moran and nearby Nevada, Mo.

Members of the Blue & Gray Brass Brigade Band play historic music for visitors with period flags draped across the top of their music stands at the Fort Scott National Historic Site on Independence Day.(Angelique McNaughton/Tribune)

A different, more contemporary kind of celebration took place earlier in the morning as about 50 residents lined Burke Street in anticipation of the annual Burke Street Parade.

Wearing red, white and blue clothing and accessories, about 70 adults and youngsters displayed patriotic pride for the parents, grandparents and curious residents who lined both sides of Burke Street Wednesday morning.

A little after 10 a.m., paraders unofficially started the march toward the procession's conclusion at the home of Shawn and Sandi Keating, 1101 Burke St.

Event co-organizer Margaret Humphrey was all smiles as she walked Burke Street in a homemade Statue of Liberty costume with her husband, Merl, as Uncle Sam.

"It was a great day," Humphrey said Thursday. "The kids always have fun and I love seeing them and everything they do."

Dozens of kids rode bikes or electric cars, some hurrying to light fireworks.

"You start out the day to become patriotic and now we have become more patriotic," Humphrey said. "It's just about loving America and your neighbors -- great memories for kids."

For FSNHS ranger Thomas, the Fourth of July and celebrations were all about one simple thing: "liberty."