SPRINGFIELD — Fireworks lit up the sky in Springfield on Sunday night, and it felt like the entire town was watching.
People sat in lawn chairs in their front yards while others watched from their cars lined up along La. Hwy. 22.
Some were sprawled out on blankets in the lot beside Fayard Field, where the miniature rockets took flight, while another crowd stood and watched eagerly from in front of Livingston Parish Fire Protection District 2 station.
But no matter where you were in the 1.4 square-mile town, chances are you saw the show.
All heads were pointed up as Artisan Pyrotechnics out of Mississippi sent a flurry of red, white and blue fireworks into the sky, one loud boom after another.
The show lasted for a little more than 15 minutes, ending with a blur of dazzling fireworks of all colors that had everyone staring at the lit-up sky in awe.
This lively display has become a staple of the small town over the last 10 years — but so has the rest of the annual Fourth of July party.
Despite uncertainty surrounding the event just two months ago, hundreds of people flocked to Springfield for the town’s 10th annual Independence Day Celebration on Sunday night, which was held for the first time in front of the Livingston Parish Fire Protection District 2 station.
There was a little of something for everyone to enjoy during the family-oriented affair. There were food vendors, balloon animal booths, a car and motorcycle show, watermelon-eating and seed-spitting contests, live music — and of course, the end-of-the-night fireworks display.
Two months ago, there was serious doubt whether the town would even hold the event in the aftermath of the Great Flood of 2016.
But Josh Randall, a “born and raised” Springfield resident who organized the event for the first time this year, wasn’t going to allow that if he could help it.
And after a successful debut running the show, he’s glad he did.
“This is the first time in my entire life where I felt like we had a town-square environment,” said Randall, who was hopping from place to place the entire night, making sure things ran smoothly. “We’re a small town, but for everyone to come out like this makes it feel bigger.”
The new location certainly helped with that.
For years, Springfield’s Fourth of July celebration was held on Main Street — or La. Hwy. 22 — but that was changed this year when Brian Drury, fire chief of Livingston Parish Fire Protection District 2, offered up the fire station’s empty grass lot in front as a possible venue.
“After all, we have this empty field just sitting here,” Drury said. “It just made sense.”
It sure did.
With everyone gathered in a more concentrated area — versus spread out along two blocks of a Louisiana highway — Randall said the event had more of a “homey feel” than in years past.
Giving all the smiling children and their happy parents that filled the grassy lot in front of the fire station for four hours, it’d be hard to argue with him.
The celebration started with the “Peddlem, Pushem, Pullem Kids Parade.” Starting in the Old Piggly Wiggly parking lot, children and their parents marched in a line of bikes, wagons and toy cars down Main Street for a few blocks before turning on Cherry Street and heading toward the fire department.
There was a brief opening ceremony once everyone reached the fire department, with Boy Scout Troop 172 of Albany-Springfield performing the presentation of colors before Rev. Richard Sandberg of First Baptist Church in Springfield led everyone in the prayer and national anthem.
Once Sandberg wrapped up, people were allowed to visit any of the 15 booths that were set up along the perimeter of the lot, such as First Baptist Church and Grammy Tammy’s Daycare, which made balloon animals for children, or Cool Kidz Snowballs, which had snowballs or powdered funnel cakes for sale.
There was a watermelon eating contest around 6 p.m., when 46 people in five different age categories tried to see how much of the tasty fruit they could scarf down. One of those was Ian Miller, a 14-year-old from Albany High School who was a winner for the third straight year.
But the watermelons weren’t put away after the eating contest — their seeds were needed for the annual seed spitting contest, which another 40 or so took part in.
Once the competitions concluded, local band King Kreole took centerstage and put on a live show for the audience, playing all sorts of famous country and rock hits from Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” The band even played a song by the late Prince.
But everything gave way once 9 p.m. rolled around and the grand fireworks finale was underway, something Denise Martin made sure she was there for.
Martin organized the Springfield Independence Day celebration for years before having to step away and hand the reins over to Randall this year.
As she stood in front of the fire station moments before the first firework went off Sunday night, she couldn’t help but be impressed at how it all came together.
“I knew it could grow more, but we needed somebody young and energetic,” Martin said. “Josh has got it. He’s got Springfield in his heart, and that’s what it takes. You have to have it in your heart to do this.
With a sweeping gesture over the happy crowd in front of the fire station, she then asked: “And look at how it’s turned out?”