HELENA – Hundreds of people came together Wednesday to celebrate America, at the fourth annual Capital City Fourth of July Celebration in Helena’s Centennial Park.
Those in attendance said the conditions were perfect.
“It is beautiful,” said Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins. “Look at the day, look at the background. You can’t complain.”
The celebration is sponsored by the Old Glory Landmark Committee, the Helena Ambassadors and a number of supporting local businesses. Organizers say it’s grown year after year.
“There’s been a lot more participation, both from the folks that are coming to enjoy the event and the people and businesses that are supporting the event,” said Jeff Wadekamper, a member of the Landmark Committee.
2018 is the 15th anniversary of the dedication of the Old Glory Landmark. Each Fourth of July, the 50-foot by 30-foot American flag flying there is lowered, and a lighter weight flag intended for summer use is raised.
This year, organizers arranged something unique: A helicopter from Reach Air Medical Services brought the new flag in. Eight Navy sailors then carried the flag to the flagpole, with help from local veterans, children and those who helped create the landmark. A local Boy Scout troop hoisted the flag.
Collins, who himself served in the military, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Celebrating Old Glory means a lot,” he said. “This is our independence, and it means everything to us here today – not only service members, but the regular folks.”
The celebration included something for everyone: live music from the local band Coffee Can Stash, first responders showing off their emergency vehicles, and bounce houses and other activities for kids. The Helena Lions Club provided free hot dogs to everyone in attendance.
“It’s great to see the community come out and celebrate the Fourth of July and be thankful for living in the country that we live in and having our freedom, and so it’s a lot of fun,” Wadekamper said.
Also on Wednesday, the final preparations were underway for the Helena area’s largest fireworks display, the Prickly Pear Community Celebration in East Helena.
The event is a longtime tradition in the East Helena community, with fireworks set off from the top of the slag pile. The show will begin at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, and should be visible from U.S. Highway 12 and from most parks in East Helena.
This is the second year that Shellie’s Country Cafe has taken the lead in sponsoring the celebration. Owner Shellie Mitchell set a goal of raising $30,000 to pay for the fireworks. As of Tuesday, they had collected more than $26,000.
Mitchell said any money over their goal will be donated to Helena-area veterans’ services.
“This is for them, and we want to do everything we can to show our support,” she said.
Volunteers will go around the East Helena area on four-wheelers Wednesday night, to collect any additional donations.
“We love doing it,” said Mitchell. “It’s a lot of work, we’re tired by tonight, but we enjoy it. It makes us proud, makes us happy to help the Helena community.”
Mitchell said Shellie’s Country Cafe will keep a donation bucket open for the next two weeks if anyone still wants to make a contribution.
For more information on the Prickly Pear Community Celebration, you can visit helenafireworks.com.