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MP Fourth of July honors law enforcement, emergency responders

GTNS photo by Grace King

Brooklyn Ruggles, 10, right and Devilyn Ruggles, 6, are served hot dogs and brats by the Mt. Pleasant Fire Department during the Fourth of July celebration in McMillan Park on Thursday, July 4. The fire department provided food for first responders and their families for a freewill donation that goes to the fireworks committee.
GTNS photo by Grace King Brooklyn Ruggles, 10, right and Devilyn Ruggles, 6, are served hot dogs and brats by the Mt. Pleasant Fire Department during the Fourth of July celebration in McMillan Park on Thursday, July 4. The fire department provided food for first responders and their families for a freewill donation that goes to the fireworks committee.
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Kendra Bechstein jumped up and down before the fireworks show in McMillan Park in Mt. Pleasant on the Fourth of July.

The six-year-old from Toledo, Ohio, was visiting cousins in Mt. Pleasant over the long holiday weekend. Her favorite part of fireworks? The big “ka-boom,” she said.

While fireworks may be the main attraction during the annual Fourth of July celebration in McMillan Park, the parade, good food, bouncy houses and live music have become a tradition for many residents.

Mark Kennedy, a paramedic with the Henry County Health Center, said that he was enjoying the Fourth of July the “old-fashioned American way with hot dogs and heroes.”

Linn Conrad, of Mt. Pleasant, invites people to the fireworks show every year. He used to help shoot off the fireworks in the 1980s. Now his good friend Kevin Wellington helps organize the Independence Day event.

“He does a great job,” Conrad said.

Conrad lives only five blocks away from McMillan Park, and he says the fireworks show has always been a great family event.

Jeremy Pohren, of Fairfield, a friend of Conrad’s, grilled hamburgers from the back of his truck for his family of 10 before the fireworks show began.

“We’re keeping it simple,” Pohren said, who lived in Mt. Pleasant for 20 years before moving to Fairfield.

For those who didn’t bring their own grill to the park, the Henry County Cattlemen’s Association was grilling up ribeyes, hamburgers and hot dogs and serving nachos.

Dancers from Soul Expressions Dance Studio were selling root beer floats, walking tacos and snow cones.

Youth for Christ was selling fresh Georgia peaches for $1.

Even MedForce made an appearance, landing a helicopter behind tractor headquarters on the grounds of Midwest Old Threshers around 4:30 p.m.

Sam Cain, pilot of the MedForce helicopter, said MedForce dedicates time for special events and public relations.

Cain said that he hopes that having a presence in the communities they serve will be a way to introduce themselves and let residents know they are here to enhance already-present EMS services.

“We have a good relationship with Henry County,” Cain said.

Kathy Simmons, of West Point, joined her daughter Brandy Parker, of Danville, and her grandkids Allison Parker, 7, and Nick Parker, 10, for their Fourth of July tradition in McMillan Park.

Simmons said this is the first year in quite a while that she didn’t have to work on Independence Day, and she was happy to get to spend it with family.

“It celebrates America,” Simmons said.

“I like all the activities, and I get to see people I haven’t seen in awhile,” Brandy said, as her daughter Allison stepped off the MedForce helicopter. “There’s a lot of good (fireworks) displays in the area that do a lot with honoring first responders,” Brandy added, whose husband is a firefighter and medic in Burlington.

Allison said getting to sit in a helicopter was “neat,” but her favorite part of her family’s Fourth of July tradition is getting to play in the bouncy houses and riding the carousel on the Old Threshers grounds.