Getting wild in Waldo
By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
WALDO -- Parachute fireworks crackled open in the sky with colored smoke and descended onto a field of swarming children at the 11th annual Waldo After Harvest Fireworks on Saturday.
Encircled by a ring of family and friends, the evening's festivities had the atmosphere of a backyard cookout with the neighbors. Free hot dogs, watermelon and soft-serve ice cream were distributed, and eager youths cooled off in the mist from fire trucks' pumps.
An R/C plane buzzing overhead was grazed by bundled T-shirts propelled from a slingshot. The glow from sparklers lit up children's faces as they huddled around each other to feed the flames on their sticks.
The celebration ended with a fireworks show set to classic patriotic songs. Onlookers ate watermelon and watched the dazzling finale as an American flag flapped in the wind.
Mike Finkenbinder, Waldo fire chief and the program's organizer, said the celebration was dedicated to several longtime residents who died during the year. He attributed the event's growing popularity to its community appeal.
"It's a pure family deal," he said.
Regarding the night's name, he said the harvest was disappointing. The program also served as a morale booster.
"It wasn't a harvest," he said. "It was a mercy killing."
Erin Maupin, Hays, said the night was a homecoming for her because she grew up in nearby Paradise. It offered an opportunity for reunions.
"Once you move away, you don't get to see everybody that often," she said. "When you come back to things like this, everybody grows up. You can catch up. It's a nice little event."
The event is distinct from similar events because the atmosphere is more close-knit, relaxed and family-friendly, she said.
Jacob Murphy, 12, Waldo, said the sparklers were his favorite part. Getting soaked by the fire trucks was another highlight because of the summer heat. He collected the parachute fireworks before sharing.
"I had 10," he said. "I gave like eight of them to other kids."