Fast, fun and firework-filled Fourth

By on July 10, 2019

One dreary downpour during the day didn’t deter folks from having a fabulous Fourth last Thursday evening on the grassy grounds of the Lincoln Heights area, with a special event sponsored by the Ephrata Church of the Brethren.

Activities for the kids started early with everything from a barrel train to bouncy houses, face-painting and pony rides.

All the music, games, and activities were free for families, with the exception of the food and milkshakes.

Profits from the refreshments help the church’s youth group to go on mission trips, retreats, and community outreach, said ECOB member Cindy Zimmerman.

“It’s a great opportunity to reach out to the community and serve,” Zimmerman said, also giving kudos to all the volunteers who helped to put the event together.

Between two to three thousand people were expected to attend the long-standing tradition of Ephrata’s Fourth of July celebration.


What a day it was in town last Thursday celebrating the Fourth Of July. (from top) Ephrata’s own Zach Lefever, shown here about to enter the linear trail from East Main Street, got things started early with a dominating victory in the Firecracker Five; this patriotic runner, passing the “SMILE” sign along the trail,” carried the flag for the entire race; the weather cleared for the free community fireworks show at 9:30 p.m.; the red, white and blue were all over the place at Thursday’s Firecracker with (left to right) Kennedy Root, Alex Rummel and Pamela Sola looking very patriotic and surprisingly fresh after finishing the race; viewers begin crowding the popular spots around the rec center, middle school and Ephrata Church of the Brethren at twilight, waiting for the fireworks show to begin; the Fabulous 60s Revival Band provided a great atmosphere for the annual Family Fun Night at ECOB before the fireworks.

Hundreds of those people made fashion statements by showing their patriotism in red, white, and blue ensembles featuring stars and stripes.

Seventeen-year-old Chandler Eby was a stand-out, wearing an “Uncle Sam” top hat, a blue suit jacket covered in stars, a Statue of Liberty tie, and red, white, and blue everything else.
Independence Day is always a meaningful celebration for the upcoming Ephrata High School senior.

“I love America and the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday,” Eby said. “I like that we’re celebrating the birth of our nation, and even more, that we’re celebrating the freedoms and the liberty we have here that you can’t find in some other countries. So, I go all out.”

US Eby, who would like to serve as a senator one day, stays up until midnight on the Fourth to hear the national anthem and the next day, reads the Constitution.

“I think it’s important that people know their past and where they came from,” Eby said. “My whole family loves getting ready for the Fourth of July, and everybody comes to the fireworks.”

Ephrata native Donna Murphy, wearing a sparkly star headband and red, white, and blue tye-dye said she enjoys the jovial atmosphere of the evening.

“It’s inviting, it’s friendly, and it’s spiritual,” Murphy said. “I love the giving part of it; there’s free bottled water, free popcorn, and the food prices are reasonable. It’s a friendly, safe environment for families and children.

“I love the fireworks, I love the colors… and I’d be here even if I was the only person here,” Murphy said. “Of course, by the time they start, the whole place will be packed.”

John Bair, Murphy’s brother, hails from Columbia in Lancaster County and said he always enjoys Ephrata’s Independence Day celebration.

“I just love the people here; everyone is friendly,” said Bair, attired in a stars-and-stripes shirt. “I like the music they have here, that’s for sure; they always have good music.”

The Fabulous 60s Revival Band was the headliner for the evening.

Waiting in line at the face-painting booth with her daughter Hannah was Tanya Beakes of Denver.

“It’s a great time and everything’s for free, so that makes it nice for the families,” said Tanya. “We enjoy the fireworks and we come every year… there’s room for everybody to sit (on the hillside) and we enjoy the festivities, so it’s a great family event.”

Eleven-year-old Hannah was particularly looking forward to the pony rides, she said.

“I like that they have something for everybody here and I really like the fireworks,” Hannah said.

Also nearby was husband Brian Beakes, with three-year-old daughter, Emma, who was outfitted with ear protectors in the event of noisy fireworks, and the family’s Fresh Air child, Yvonne, 10, from New York.

Dad Brian is an Army veteran and served in Bosnia and Germany.

“This event is very cool and it brings people together,” Beakes said. “I’m reading a book about John Adams right now and what he had to say is very interesting… the United States is a pretty significant place and a unique idea that, so far, has worked.

“Often, people (of different nations) fight about stuff, but it’s not about stuff; it’s about following an idea,” Beakes said. “Government doesn’t exist to control you, but to allow you to pursue your liberties, your happiness. I wish more people would read the Declaration of Independence.” Brad Spilker and his wife, Chandra, and their three children are originally from Tennessee. They moved to Pennsylvania so Brad could attend Penn State and Chandra, Reading Area Community College, where she is majoring in nursing.

Currently living in Fleetwood, this is the third year the family has attended Ephrata’s celebration.

Tim Stickney grew up in Key Biscayne, Florida and emceed that city’s July Fourth race for 30 years. In recent years he’s spent the holiday with his daughter and son-in-law, Tim and Katie Jankey. He and his Uncle Sam costume have become Firecracker favorites. Jankey paused for a photo with Evelyn Moister and Vivian and Chloe Diller as the girls’ parents, Josh and Nicole Diller and Jessica Moister were somewhere on the five-mile course. 


 A cooldown along the trail for this “group” of runners.

Families enjoying games together at the Ephrata Church of the Brethren Family Fun Night last Thursday.

Spilker’s shirt might have been black, but it was one of the most patriotic shirts at the celebration, with gold letters spelling “Marine Veteran.” Spilker served as a Marine for 10 years, including three tours of Iraq.

“That is a different way of life,” Spilker said of his foreign tours.
Spilker has walked the walk, and continues to have a real affinity for the nation’s Independence Day.

“Getting together with family and friends is a great way to celebrate and it’s good for the kids,” Spilker said. “It’s also a good time to remember what we’re doing and where we’ve been.”
Seated together on the hillside, awaiting the fireworks display, were a group of veterans and their wives who are vacationing at the “Circle M” campgrounds near Lancaster.

Former Marine Ralph Poper, 65, of Philadelphia, said he served “all over,” including Okinawa. “When I think of the Fourth of July, I think of all the veterans that died for us.” Poper said. “When I was younger, I put flags on the cemeteries.

“This also reminds me of our freedoms,” Poper said. “We have better freedoms here than anywhere in the world.”

Poper also worked with the Marines’ “Toys for Tots” for 46 years.
Army veteran George Smith, 69, of Norrisville, Maryland, served in Vietnam.

“I am patriotic,” Smith said. “My overall attitude is one of fierce independence… something to fight for are the freedoms we enjoy here.”

Sloan Fox, 63, of Philadelphia, fought in Vietnam as a member of the US Marines.

“Anyone that’s in the military would give their life for this country and that’s what it’s all about,” Fox said. “The Declaration of Independence; that’s what this day is about, and that is what’s important.”

Thomas Ruth of Schoeneck wore his feelings on his shirt, which read “Stand up for the anthem because it stands for something.” “And I mean it,” Ruth said, referring to his opinion shirt. “I have more shirts like this, including one that says “If you don’t like these colors, I’ll help you pack.”

“We always celebrate the Fourth and we love our flag,” Ruth said. “I like the freedoms we have in this country, we can come and go as we please.” Currently in a wheelchair, Leonard Hilton, 69, of Ephrata, served in Vietnam as a member of the US Army.

“It was a pretty good experience and I’m proud of it,” Hilton said. “I drove trucks, servicing the PXs with supplies. I enjoy it when the kids come up to me, because they see my hat, and say ‘thanks’ for being a veteran.

“The Fourth is very important to me and I was watching the weather report today because I didn’t want to miss the entertainment and the fireworks tonight,” Hilton said. Ephrata resident Laverne Miller was also keeping an eye on the sky, he said, since his work shift usually keeps him from seeing the fireworks.

“This is the first time I’ve been here and I really wanted to spend the evening enjoying fireworks, so I’m glad the rain held off,” Miller said.

On the grounds were McGruff the police dog and Cinder the clown, both courtesy of the Ephrata Fire Company, while the Lincoln Fire Company gave firemen’s hats to boys and girls.
Tanith Jones of Schoeneck brought a large family contingent with her.

“We look forward to this so much that we even have a count-down at home,” Jones said. “This is fun, from the pony rides to everything. We really like the pre-fireworks activities and you don’t have to fork out a lot of money, which is important when you have a big family.”

Jones’ sister, Bonnie Carson, comes from Norristown for Ephrata’s celebration. Carson was covered in stars and stripes, from headband to sneakers.

“I like it all; we enjoy everything about coming here,” Carson said. “And I love the Fourth of July because it represents the USA.”

Marylouise Sholly is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. 

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