SUNNYSIDE — The 25th annual Lions Club July 4th Celebration featured a program of watermelon coolness and hot dog grilled aroma, matched with family fun activities and culminated with a free fireworks display from Sunnyside High School’s Clem Senn Field last Thursday night.

“We had another wonderful Fourth of July, thanks to all who contributed to the show, especially since we were worried that we might not have enough funds,” Sunnyside Lions Fireworks chairperson Julia Hart expressed. “The City Council and administrative staff came through again, as did a variety of community sponsors, to whom we are very grateful.”

Lion dogs were already on the barbecue as the gate opened at 6:30 p.m. A Sunnyside Fire Department truck crew was on scene and provided a cool stream of fire hose fun for anyone seeking relief from the heat at the east end of the stadium.

Officials estimated that more than 1,000 people entered the gate and took part in commemorating America’s 243-year birthday bash with a colorful gamut of hometown festivities, assisted by the Miss Sunnyside Court and candidates.

Sign-ups for the traditional food eating contests, open to both kids and adults, were collected. Vendors showcased their specialty wares. Face painting and balloon wearing art attracted visitors of all ages to get in the National Independence Day spirit.

More than 200 bacon bit and grilled onion hot dogs received preferential grill marks courtesy of Lion Club members and master fire chefs Cesar Arroyo and Ray Fujiura. This year’s menu was developed by Arroyo, who’s frankfurter presentation was influenced from Mexican street vendors.

“Whenever you’re cooking bacon or onions on a grill, the smell is wonderful. People smell that, and I think it brings them in,” Fujiura stated.

The kitchen duo arrived at 10 a.m. and cleaned up the food service area to begin food preparation so everything would be ready as the public arrived at the stadium. By the start of the firework show, they were completely sold out.

Sam Johnson earned first place in the watermelon eating contest for 8 to 12-year-olds while Joel Vazquez continued his dominance for the sixth year in a row and won in the adult group.

The Miss Sunnyside Court and candidates had their own watermelon eating challenge, surrounded by cheering spectators as Queen Deida Cortez defended her tiara and was victorious.

Ethan Munoz, who finished second in the watermelon contest, ate his way to victory in the hot dog eating race. Christian Geike won in the adult category.

The “National Anthem” was performed by Sheila Hazzard.

Following her interpretation, the Lower Valley Honor Guard marched out to the 50-yard line and conducted a 21-gun salute.

Washington State 15th District Representative Jeremie Dufault (R-Selah) was the guest speaker and conveyed his insights about the symbolism of the fireworks and meaning behind their brilliance.

“The sparks, the smells, the sounds are meant to remind us of the gun powder, the cannons, the flares that lit up the night sky for so many battles. When thousands of brave Americans died to defeat the British and make our great country free,” Dufault declared as the crowd passionately applauded.

Following his stirring speech, Dufault volunteered to detonate the firework plunger, which ignited the 30-minute fireworks program designed by Alpha Pyrotechnics of Yakima.

“I’m always so excited to see the first burst of color in the skies above Sunnyside each year, and this year was no exception,” Hart said.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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