NH goes Fourth in style

Gabrielle Giffords, formerly served in the United States House of Representatives, and her husband Mark Kelly, walk off the field after making the ceremonial first pitch before the start of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats baseball game at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on the Fourth of July.

Festivities in celebration of Independence Day began Wednesday night and continued Thursday as Granite Staters kept to traditions as old and honored as the country whose freedom has now endured for 237 years.

Fireworks were a major attraction in dozens of New Hampshire communities, starting Wednesday night when the annual show over Manchester drew thousands to Arms Park and surrounding neighborhoods.

"It's big time, it's appreciation for what we've got," said Mark Orshak of Manchester, clad in a colonial-styled shirt depicting the American flag. "I think it's celebrated more and more since 9/11 and what happened in Boston kind of spurs it now."

Most of those who staked out prime viewing spots early were family groups; toddlers were caught up in the same excitement that had captured their parents and grandparents for generations before them.

Ashley and Oscar Castro brought their three children, Cameron, 9, Caden, 6, and Colby, 1, each clad in patriotic-colored rugby-style shirts.

"It's the Fourth of July, it's tradition," said Ashley Castro. "I saw (the shirts) and I just had to have them."

Tradition was also behind the shirt celebrating the American flag worn by Amelia Szelog, 18, of Manchester.

"I wear it to represent American, freedom," she said. "Every year family gets together, barbecues, fireworks, we really have pride on that day."Spectators at Manchester's festivities were entertained while waiting by the 39th Army Band, New Hampshire National Guard, which is itself steeped in more than 130 years of tradition. Traditional patriotic favorites were performed, along with popular tunes of contemporary and not-so-contemporary vintage.

Fireworks displays also kicked off Independence Day celebrations Wednesday in Alton, Amherst, Gorham, Pelham, Portsmouth, Rochester, Salem and Weirs Beach.

Another 30 communities capped off Independence Day with fireworks Thursday.

In Lebanon, the fireworks were postponed because of the damaged caused by this week's flooding.

Town officials promise "a very special fireworks show" to celebrate the town's recovery from the flooding.

For most who gathered for fireworks, cook-outs and other traditional events, being anywhere else simply wouldn't do.

"It doesn't change, it doesn't matter if we're in the middle of a conflict or in the most peaceful time, it's still the same," said Mike Rice of Nashua, who retired after 40 years service with the New Hampshire Army National Guard.

Mikayla Jernigan, 18, of Manchester said she planned to spend the Fourth with family and friends.

"I love how everyone comes together, to see the fireworks and hang out together" Jernigan said."

In Manchester, many have made the annual fireworks show a family tradition, first at Derryfield Park for years before the show moved to Arms Park in 1985."It is a long-standing tradition; my brother and I grew up in a house where the Fourth of July is celebrated," said Cathie Orshak of Manchester. "You just wouldn't be anywhere else but here."