Los Banos celebrates Independence Day in style

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comJuly 11, 2013 

An estimated 3,500 people packed Veterans Memorial Stadium at Pacheco High School last week for games, music and fireworks as they celebrated America's birthday.

"It went really well. The people I talked to said they were impressed," said Cassandra Helmrick, who organized the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce's 17th annual Old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration.

The four-hour celebration, which culminated with a fireworks show, also featured school groups selling food and bands led by music teachers Tom Faria and Cliff Brand. Faria's band consisted of musicians he performed with years ago. He said they were able to perform their set without rehearsal.

"It was like a little history of music," Faria said of the tunes from the 1950s through '80s.

"It was kind of fun getting those guys together again," he said.

Guitarist Alvin Draper and harmonica player Jim Nakama played after the fireworks show. In 2008, Draper was named Male Blues Vocalist of the Year by the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame.

The Chamber of Commerce sold $1 Push the Plunger Raffle tickets. The plan was for the winner of the drawing to ignite the annual fireworks show with a 4-foot-tall detonator. Chamber of Commerce President Geneva Brett won the drawing, but she passed on the duties in favor of a late-arriving Bruce Rivers.

"All my grandkids were here and we were late. So I'm walking in and Geneva waves and so I see her wave back. They wanted me to do the plunger," Rivers said.

After realizing he had been drafted to start the show, Rivers did the honor and took note of everything happening in and outside the stadium.

"There was at least 1,000 people in the parking lot, it was like a tailgate party," Rivers recounted. "It was one of those good ol' times in Los Banos."

Helmrick said she was pleased with the event, but next year she wants it to start at 6 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. because the temperature will be lower. She said she also wants to have the headlining act perform before the fireworks show.

Helmrick is prepared to start organizing the 2014 event later this month.

"It's going to be good next year," she said. "We're actually going to start planning July 31."

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