SELMA – The Selma High stadium may be under reconstruction, but as far as Bob Allen was concerned, the fireworks show must go on.
Allen is the Selma District Chamber of Commerce’s executive director and this year’s Independence Day celebration on July 3 was the 30th annual event.
“We had a great fireworks show. Our Board worked really hard and we came together. It’s a community event and we were a community. It is a lot of work, but it’s one of those events that we know it’ll bring out community pride. And our local musician, Rick Tuttrup, always does a great job picking out the patriotic music.”
The lack of stadium seating didn’t stall the event as plans were made to have visitors bring their own lawn chairs or blankets and watch the fireworks display from a baseball field where parking typically takes place. Parking was set up on a vacant lot just northwest of the school grounds with shuttles going back and forth and Selma Volunteers in Policing and Explorers along with police officers assisting with traffic control.
“When you have change, it’s always difficult for some people,” Allen said. “Logistically, we had to make some adjustments to how we usually do it, but it was a great program. I thought it went wonderful. The crowd was great.”
Visitors came from around the Valley and beyond including some from Sanger, Visalia, Hanford, Dinuba, Madera, Fresno and Oxnard to listen to the Dave Aguallo Band perform live music before the fireworks display.
The celebration included awarding the Community Spirit Award and this year the honor went to Leslie Nelson. She’s sparked a community-wide clean-up effort that continues to pick up steam where every Saturday morning, Nelson and a group of volunteers head out to either pick up trash, pull weeds or cart off discarded household items in an effort to beautify Selma.
“She’s picked up an area of this community that’s been neglected for a while,” Allen said before announcing her name. “At least a couple of times a month each Saturday, you’ll find her out cleaning flower beds, cleaning up trash or anything that’s deterring the beauty of this community. The fact she continues this, it was a unanimous decision that this award go this individual.”
Nelson used the limelight to invite residents to join their efforts.
“We only ask for one hour but it can turn into two or three because everyone has such a great time. But if you ever want to just come out and join us, we’d love to have you. Bring some gloves, a picker and your smile and spirit. Please come join us.”
While the Dave Aguallo Band performed live music, nonprofits sold a variety of all-American favorites such as corn on the cob, baked potatoes and tacos.
Pastor Joe Alvarez called out to entice visitors to their Iglesia Octavia Antioch Church that was serving cheesy nachos, chili cheese and hot Cheetos.
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“It’s for our Vacation Bible School for the kids. It’ll be awesome and we’re hosting it at the Pioneer Village for the first time,” he said of their upcoming event. Alvarez said sales were better than ever and he appreciated the community’s patronage.
“Even with all the construction and parking and all that. There are a lot of people here not just from Selma, but from around the area, that are supporting us and joining us. The fireworks are going to be really awesome.”
Alvarez said he’s travelled internationally to preach, but is always glad to come home to the U.S.A.
“Yes, we have problems and division, but at the end of the day we’re a great nation. We live in the best nation on the face of this earth. I thank God because of the liberties we have. I think we take it for granted and we fight over so much of the small stuff.”
That patriotic sentiment was felt by many in the audience, especially Selma’s American Legion Post #12’s Past Commander Stanley Riggs.
After serving in the Korean War from 1953-1955, Riggs said it’s the liberties available in the United States of America that stands out as a reason to celebrate the country’s birth.
“Freedom is the big issue with me. I’m proud to have served my country and I’d do it again if called to so. It’s not going to happen, but I’d do it again. Some countries don’t allow this,” he said of the large gathering that evening.
When asked about his favorite part of the evening, Riggs pointed to the award-winning Selma High Marine Corps Junior ROTC cadets who would present colors to kick off the event.
As they did so, a hush fell over the crowd before the Pledge of Allegiance was recited and Selma’s Tanya Smith sang the National Anthem.
After the fireworks display, Allen said plans are already underway for next year’s fireworks show where an even bigger production is planned. Once Selma High’s Staley Stadium rebuild is finished, then specifics would be worked out. Either way, Allen said it’s community pride that will be the star of the show.
“There are a lot of people who come here every year from other communities who come over to say ‘hi’ and call to say what a great program it was. It’s a great event. To me, it’s an event that defines us as Selma.”