Residents of Springfield and the surrounding areas gathered to celebrate a traditional Fourth of July a day early with a parade, contests, a salute to military veterans and fireworks.

Warm, muggy weather didn’t deter the several hundred who gathered in Springfield to mark the nation’s birthday.

Denise Martin, chairman of Springfield’s Team City group that planned the celebration, said the observance of the Fourth of July each year grew out of town’s celebration of its 170th birthday in 2008. That yearlong observance sparked an interest in holding civic-centered, communitywide observances at Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July.

Martin said Team City, affiliated with the town of Livingston’s council and mayor, works to promote growth and tourism in the town.

The day’s activities started with a new event, the Peddlem-Pushem-Pullem Parade for children 12 and younger. Entries in the parade were limited to nonmotorized, wheeled vehicles. Youngsters in wagons, on bicycles and tricycles participated in the parade that wound its way from Springfield High School to the festival’s main venue at First Baptist Church. The parade was accompanied by patriotic music emanating from a golf cart.

The event drawing the most attention was the watermelon-eating and watermelon seed-spitting contests. Dozens of contestants lined up along a long set of tables to slurp watermelon as fast as they could.

In a salute to the military, members of the 205 Engineering Battalion of the Louisiana National Guard, in Hammond, displayed U.S. Army vehicles. Several World War II veterans were seated in front of the church and visitors were invited to discuss their service in the military. The veterans were later saluted with a meal and a tributary presentation delivered by the Rev. Terry Lobell, of the Wind Ministries.

The celebration was capped off with a fireworks display that blazed into the night skies over Fayard Field near the center of the town.

“We try to make this day a very special one as we remember the birthday of our nation,” Martin said. “We have a really good crowd here and we are excited about all the people who came here today to visit Springfield and take the time to honor this very special holiday.”