Rain made its way through Shippensburg Friday evening, but it did not put a halt to the 2019 fireworks show at Veterans Stadium.

People swarmed inside of the stadium for the Independence Day festivities Friday. This year’s celebration -- held July 5 -- had people lined up inside the nearby lots along West King Street surrounding the West End Complex, Rita’s Italian Ice and Pizza Hut. Spectators also found space along Lurgan Avenue and North Morris Street.

“We were just looking at the calendar, and we saw Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Let’s try something new, spread the event out between the three days,” said Tyler Fairchild, director of the Shippensburg Community Parks & Recreation Authority. “We had a great day at the pool yesterday with people here. We had the fireworks and Candy Scramble tonight. Tomorrow, we’ve got the pool party with all the games and stuff going on.”

A light drizzle earlier in the evening did cause the Shippensburg Town Band concert to be canceled. Many umbrellas accompanied lawn chairs in preparation for the weather.

The annual Candy Scramble, which featured 35,000 pieces of candy scattered in an enclosed space for children to collect, also welcomed families at Veterans Stadium before the annual fireworks display at 9:30 p.m.

“It looks like everyone is just having a good time. It’s a nice peaceful gathering,” said Valerie Varnauskas of Newville. “The kids are playing football. It reminds me of the good old days.”

She attended with her husband, Frank, and their adult son’s family. When asked about their favorite part of the evening, Frank responded: “Everyone likes the finale, right?”   

Kids found entertainment in many forms during the evening, whether by throwing a football, or eating some flavored ice from the Kona Ice truck. While the band did not perform, patriotic music still played over the intercom. The Cumberland Valley Hitmen football team also served hot dogs, hamburgers, candy, chips and drinks.

The early part of the evening was time to sit around, or play leisurely during some light drizzles. The evening picked up a bit, once the rain stopped and the Candy Scramble began. Volunteers dumped boxes of candy, as well as glow sticks and miniature Frisbees, on the grass and once the green light was given, kids flew around the grass filling their bags with as many sweets as possible. 

The Varnauskases called their 9-year-old granddaughter, Lexi, “The Bulldozer,” for the way she goes about the Candy Scramble, hunting for her favorite fruit-flavored Tootsie Rolls, or “Frootie Tooties.”

Gabe Strait, 5, of Shippensburg was also one of the participants in the Candy Scramble and said, “I’ve been running around all day.” Gabe had a lot of “scrambling” practice with his aunt beforehand, playing with his light up ball and sword, prior to participating in his first-ever hunt. He said his favorite candy were the blue Tootsie Rolls.  

Gabe attended the local event with his local pre-K friend, Eevee Erickson, 4, of Shippensburg, who also was a fan of the Tootsie Rolls. She had fun being up past her usual curfew to participate in her first scramble. She sported some of the glow sticks collected during the scramble, and said she plans to participate again next year.

The National Anthem played over the intercom prior to the fireworks show. The stadium lights went out as the crowd fell in awe as the colorful bursts filled the sky. Two-thirds of the way through the show, the rain started to pick up again, and people ran to their cars for cover.

Families still found value in the annual holiday festivities.

“It brings the community together,” said Susan Betz of Shippensburg, who was celebrating her 39th birthday. “There are not many things that are free that you can do anymore.”

She said it was a great show that topped a full day of running around with her three sons and one girlfriend for her birthday.   

Independence Day fireworks bring different meanings to different people. For Ben Rosenberry, he encouraged people to remember the story behind the July 4th fireworks.

“These are the things you do when you love your country,” he said. “It helps us unite and show patriotism.”

This year’s sponsors included Orrstown Bank, American Legion Post 223, Durff-Kuhn VFW Post 6168, Zullinger-Brenize Outdoor Design & Maintenance, Shetron’s Tire Service, D&J Truck Repair, Carl L. Cramer Insurance, Robert T. Henry Pharmacy, Shippensburg Borough, Southampton (Franklin) Township and Shippensburg Community Parks & Recreation.

“July 4 is my favorite holiday,” Fairchild said. “It’s great to see the community out here. The best part for me is seeing the kids playing here at the stadium prior to the fireworks and Candy Scramble. You’ve got kids meeting new kids. You’ve got the Cumberland Valley Hitmen interacting with them playing football. We had soccer. We’ve got Frisbee going on. That’s the most enjoyable part for me, is seeing the community interacting together like that. And then we get to the end the night together with the fireworks.” 

Other Friday events

At 4:30 p.m. Friday, Shippensburg Station hosted its monthly “First Fridays” celebration with food from Uncle Eddie’s BBQ and the Taco Trap House of Gettysburg. Appalachian Brewing Co. provided a beer garden, and Mitchell Burrows played guitar.

New to this First Fridays was the Ticket to Downtown, sponsored by the Cumberland Valley Rail-Trail Association and the Shippensburg Area Chamber of Commerce. Twenty participating locations had tickets for patrons to pick up. Residents sought to visit at least five of the participating businesses to get holes punched in their ticket. They could then return to Shippensburg Station and be entered into a raffle for prizes.

Christ United Methodist Church also hosted “Building with Christ” a couple hours before the July 4 fireworks in order to get kids out and involved with the church. Volunteers facilitated various games associated with building, like LEGOs, Lincoln Logs, Magna-Tiles and different types of blocks.

Pastor Bruce Levy said the event is organized in tandem with First Fridays and was one of the participating locations on the Ticket to Downtown. Last month, it was “Bounce with Christ” with different inflatables, and next month it will be “Reading with Christ.”

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