The inaugural July 4 Uncle Sam’s Jam at Parc International in Lafayette got off to a slow start on Saturday after torrential rainfall drove away the crowd for a spell.
But by 5 p.m., the clearing skies and anticipation of the approaching fireworks show brought the Independence Day revelers streaming back.
“We had to kill everything to wait for that bad rain to pass, but we never thought about canceling the event because of the weather,” said Katie Parris, event coordinator for Uncle Sam’s Jam. “Fireworks are ready to go. Bands are waiting to play. Now we just need that crowd.”
The entertainment on tap for those willing to stick it out included the versatile sounds of Lafayette’s “The Voice” contestant Travis Ewing.
The event-turned-fundraiser was held to bring in donations to help restore downtown Lafayette and to specifically address some safety issues.
With many of the lights along Jefferson Street no longer working, the Downtown Lafayette Restaurant and Bar Association was looking for a way to raise money to repair them and address other needs.
The first half of the event was based around families with Eddie Spaghetti’s balloon animals and the Children’s Museum craft station.
“We have a ton of Independence Day-themed crafts and interactive kids’ play — just a lot of fun for them,” said Jo Breakfield, director of operations for the museum. “We try to be as active as we can in all of the downtown — specifically the family and children’s — events. Where the kids are, that’s where we need to be.”
Both La Carreta of Lafayette and Hook’d Up Bar & Grill were serving food, along with a bar that was jointly sponsored by the downtown bars. Proceeds made from drinks went to the fundraiser.
Along with Ewing, a fellow contestant from “The Voice,” Ray Boudreaux, and local musician Roddie Romero took to the stage.
But what Danielle Comeaux and her family were looking forward to the most was the fireworks display put on by AFX Pro.
“You can’t have the Fourth of July with no fireworks. It’s what everyone expects and what everyone wants to see,” Comeaux said. “This is Louisiana. When do we not have the threat of rain? That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this holiday.”
Despite the early trouble caused by the day’s weather, Bill Parker, lead pyrotechnician behind the eight-minute fireworks display, said the weather was perfect for what he had planned.
“What we dealt with was nothing today,” he said. “We’ve been in ankle deep water trying to do a show, so the weather like this just made the day a bit cooler and is giving us a great sky for the fireworks.”
Parker said what sets the Lafayette fireworks show apart from so many others was how close they were to the crowd.
“Normally, you will set up about 1,000 feet from the audience, but we are only 600 feet or so,” he said. “These fireworks that we have prepared may not go as high as some of the larger ones you will normally use, but it won’t look any different to the crowd.
“And because of how small they are, it’s going to be very intimate. Only those who came down here to see them will get a chance to experience it.”
Independence Day is the most popular day of the year for fireworks, followed by New Year’s Eve, according to Parker.
“The Fourth of July is a celebration of the nation’s independence,” Parker said. “And what did we have to do to get that independence? We had to fight.
“The whole concept of fireworks is to simulate a battlefield. We had to go through this to get our independence, and now we can just sit back and enjoy the beauty of it.”