By DAVID FREESE AND WILLIAM B. CARROLL
Daily Star Staff Writers
Galloping lyrics of the “Star-Spangled Banner” sung by 15-year-old Heidi Carrier, of Loranger High School, rippled through the settling mist surrounding Hammond’s Zemurray Park Wednesday afternoon as firework cannons were set up nearby.
Young children like Jayson Kennedy, 3; his sister Ally, 8; Kaitlynn Powell, 5; Rylee Pritchard, 6; and her sister Avery, 7; solemnly held their hands over their hearts as their clothes dampened amid slight rainfall.
Conversations and opening ceremonies were rich with the top of freedom and liberty during the annual July 3 holiday celebrations, which traditionally have taken place in both Tangipahoa Parish cities the day before Independence Day.
Around 6 p.m. Hammond Mayor Mayson Foster huddled under a tent with more than a dozen others. Many local residents attending the celebration wore colors of the U.S. flag or T-shirts decaled with stars of Old Glory.
Foster reminisced on his childhood days growing up in downtown Hammond. He remembers attending firework shows at Zemurray Park as a child. The park’s rolling train, named the “Peggy Sue,” had yet to be installed and most fireworks were far from aerial, but they did illuminate the pond creating a nice reflection, he noted.
Foster said rainfall seems to be a Hammond tradition on July 3. He looked at a weather app on his iPhone Tuesday and saw bad weather projected.
Foster forwarded the memo to Rose Caprera, an employee of the city’s Purchasing Department and overseer of the firework show. Caprera told Foster celebrations would continue – rain or shine.
In Hammond, 71-year-old Bill Hatchett, of J&M Displays, scribbled numbers on a piece of paper in an attempt to tally the number of shells that would explode over Zemurray Park.
“I jokingly say I started blasting dynamite at 9 years old,” he said.
Hatchett said his father was involved with the collection of seismic data, which ultimately involved placing dynamite charges into shallow holes for the purpose of finding oil wells.
“I was around explosions at an early age,” he said.
A total of 700 shells – compacted with various chemicals – eventually combusted 250 feet in the air. B-Class three-inch shells were fired electronically. According to Hatchett, his company has fired 12-inch shells but couldn’t do so at Zemurray due to the distance between the material and audience.