On the evening of July 3rd, Kevin Neal was hopeful that the skies would stay dry for the Fraternal Order of Eagles #248’s Independence Day Celebration. Neal is the trustee for the organization but was also a founder of this grand community event, that draws a mass of people from 6pm until the fireworks end around 11pm each year. The event offered free hot dogs, live bands from the deck of the “Fred Grote” semi-truck stage, a cornhole tournament and of course fireworks.
“It’s hard to say just how many people there were in total, but by 7pm our [Eagles #248] parking lot was full and people kept on rolling in from there.” Neal continued “We went through 1500 hot dogs, so I would guess we had at least 1,000… maybe close to 2,000 people there by the end of the night.”
According to Neal, the event wasn’t advertised anywhere to attract this many people. Throughout the years, the event grew out of a private 4th of July show held out of a garage and as more people found out about it, they needed to relocate to have enough space to fit everybody. Reportedly, it was at that time when the Eagles decided that they would be the sole funders and managers of the event, for the sake of assisting the community.
“We want to give people in our area who couldn’t or didn’t want to drive up north to see fireworks an opportunity to celebrate Independence Day. A lot of people laughed when they heard we were going to hold it on the 3rd and not the 4th or a weekend date, but I now think that’s what helps draw the crowd as well.” Neal said. “This event takes a ton of volunteers and is quite expensive but as an Eagle, we see it as a way to fulfill our mission of helping people, which is what this event is all about. Throughout the year, the organization supports many other community events, but this one is ours and we’re very proud of it!”
Unfortunately, the weather was not completely cooperative for the Eagle’s volunteer crew on the eve of July 3rd, but they were able to lay tarps on the packs of fireworks that they could before heavier rain came in spots. According to Neal, they did lose part of their “grand finale,” but overall the rain held off and didn’t impact the experience for guests too much.
“By the time it began to get dark, there were people all over celebrating and patiently waiting for the fireworks to begin. Our lot was full and so were many of the surrounding lots, including people camped out around the soccer fields which are across the street. But, that’s who we do it for… Our community. And we put on a damn good show!”