For many in Garden City, Fourth of July festivities started closer to 8 p.m., when the Municipal Band started playing at Lee Richardson Zoo and the fireworks followed. But for others, there was plenty to do during the day.

Thanks to a crossover with the zoo’s scheduled Wild Wednesday, there was free vehicle admission to the zoo during the day and many locals enjoyed the animals on foot, as well. The Big Pool asked patrons trivia questions about America and hosted games such as a splash contest and limbo for prizes. The Garden City Wind had a home game in the evening that eventually fed into the fireworks next door at the zoo.

And amidst all of it, pockets of families gathered in groups throughout Finnup Park in the early afternoon, using the day off to relax with loved ones.

Like most of the families, Alin and Miguel Rodriguez’s family had come out to cook and sit in the shade. It was a day about spending time that ended with the Wind game and a gender reveal for Alin and Miguel’s daughter’s new baby, appropriately with colored fireworks.

At another grouping of camping chairs around a smoking grill, Andrea Mayes said her father had been at the park for hours preparing food. Later in the afternoon, their small posse would expand to upwards of 70 family members, all from Garden City.

For Mayes and her mother, Gloria Mesa, large family meetings aren’t exclusive to special occasions. They said the Fourth was just another chance for the siblings and cousins and parents and children to spend time with each other again.

For as long as both Mayes and Mesa could remember, their family had come to Finnup Park for the holiday, eating together and watching the city fireworks before branching off to individual houses.

This year marked a special anniversary for the family, which celebrated its 100th year in the United States after Mesa’s grandfather moved their family to the country from Mexico. Being together and staying together, Mesa said, was an idea that transcended any border.

“It's about family anywhere, I think, in any country,” Mesa said.

Across the park, Edgar Leyva said he was glad to be celebrating America’s independence. His and Karla Rodriguez’s families had celebrated the Fourth at Finnup Park for more than a decade, this year with food, water balloons and fireworks. Karla Rodriguez said she appreciated being with family and celebrating the people who sacrificed to protect our country.

“It's a country for everybody. It's immigrants' country, and I think that we celebrate the culture of the United States,” Leyva said.


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