HAVERHILL — Haverhill celebrated America’s independence with family-oriented festivities, food and of course, fireworks.
Hundreds of people headed to Riverside Park Wednesday evening to enjoy the Somerset rock band, Goodtime DJ, fried dough and other foods that are not recommended for losing weight. When the darkness arrived, the pyrotechnic extravaganza provided by Atlas Fireworks began.
This celebration was very safe, with numerous police officers, some on foot, others on bicycles, watching the events of the evening. Access to the fireworks launching site, near the Merrimack River, was cordoned off.
Fire Chief William Laliberty, Deputy Chief Eric Tarpy and other firefighters as well as police officers made sure no one got close to the launching area. Engine 5 was posted near the Lincoln Avenue entrance to the parking lot and a Trinity Ambulance crew was stationed at the park.
The gathering celebrated Haverhill as well as American pride. Mayor James Fiorentini presented citations to three people “who have put Haverhill on the map,” he said.
Elaine Barker, owner of Paper Potpourri and a longtime community activist, attended the recent Red Sox vs. Yankees games in London. While there, she displayed a sign that read “Haverhill, MA USA.”
“I was so proud of my city,” she told the crowd on the field behind Trinity Stadium. Barker, 82 and still vibrant, urged her listeners to be kind to one another.
“Our city is great and can be greater,” she said.
Allison Colby Campbell, who reports the city’s positive news on the Facebook page Heartbeat of Haverhill, was honored for her efforts to promote the good in her community.
Fiorentini said he has only known Jesus Ruiz for a few months, but he honored him for helping young people avoid gangs and drugs.
Ruiz’s Leaving the Streets Ministry is headquartered at 117 Lafayette Square.
“I give the glory to God,” he said.
The evening’s entertainment was provided by George Whitehouse, who does business as Goodtime DJ, and the Somerset rock band, made up of lead singer Nick Aikens, drummer Jake Damphousse, guitarists Bobby Borenstain and Sean Silva, bass player Connor Milligan and keyboardist Dave Apostolides.
They played several of their own songs, including “Space I’m Wasting” and “Take Me Far Away From Here.”
Several people in the crowd took to their feet.
“I noticed some dancing out there. It was real good!” Aikens said.
Many people wore outfits featuring the Stars and Stripes. Robin Perlman, of Peabody, wore a patriotic vest with an American flag design.
Asked what the Fourth of July stands for, she said, “Freedom, family and patriotism.”
Marlene Ratto, of Haverhill, wore a couple of American flags in her hair and a shirt decorated with Old Glory.
“I love the USA!” said Ratto, who is studying to become a mental health counselor.
Meghan McLaughlin, president of the Haverhill Exchange Club, was busy handing out small American flags. She and other members of the club planned to distribute 500 flags, she said.
One of the Exchange Club’s missions, she noted, is to promote Americanism. On the night before the Fourth of July, Americanism reigned at Riverside Park.