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Updated 11:00am - Nov 26, 2014

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Star-spangled spectacle

The grand finale to a day of celebration, the official fireworks show blasts off Saturday night from the Crescent City jetty.
The grand finale to a day of celebration, the official fireworks show blasts off Saturday night from the Crescent City jetty. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Thousands of people lined Crescent City’s downtown, kids scrambled for candy and clamped hands over ears when the Jed Smith Mountain Men shot off their muskets, but Sam “Mombo” Hernandez and his daughter Christy weren’t at the parade. They were slaving over a hot barrel.

Team Mombo’s chicken in a barrel won first place at last year’s Palmer Westbrook Ranch BBQ Wars, Christy Hernandez said. This year, she and her dad showed up to Beachfront Park at 6 a.m. determined to defend their title.

“I said, ‘Dad, let’s enter,’” Christy Hernandez said, adding that this year they’re also cooking up baby-back ribs. “We’re always begging him to make chicken in a barrel. We tried last year and won first place. We’re hoping to do that again today.”

Six hours later, Sam Hernandez was still sprinkling Lawry’s seasoning salt and granulated garlic on his chicken before skewering them with hooks and suspending them on wooden rods over charcoal.

“I’ve been doing it for 40 years,” he said.

While smoke drifted into the sky from Beachfront Park, Crescent City’s downtown thundered with sirens, gunshots and patriotic music. The Shriners did doughnuts at Third and H streets to the delight of the youngsters, the Del Norte Community Band serenaded the crowd and a convoy of emergency vehicles advanced down the street, horns blaring and lights flashing. 

“If you have anything to say to your neighbor, you better say it now,” said District 5 Supervisor David Finigan, who provided commentary for the parade along with Chuck Blackburn. “The whistles, the sirens, the guns will be going off in the next couple of minutes and you won’t be able to hear yourself think. Enjoy the next couple of minutes folks!”

The Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce received nearly 100 entries for the parade this year, 77 of those were judged entries, said Executive Director Jeff Parmer. Sutter Coast Hospital and Smith River Rancheria sponsored the parade, allowing people to participate for free.

Parade entries were judged on four categories, including enthusiasm and theme, said Sharyn Loughry, who works for the chamber. Judges included City Manager Eugene Palazzo, Billie Kaye Gavin-Tygart, owner of Seven Degrees of Celebration, Lou Scott and Monica Richardson. 

Among the nearly 100 entries in Crescent City’s annual Fourth of July parade, a military jeep cruises through downtown under the command of a VFW member.
Among the nearly 100 entries in Crescent City’s annual Fourth of July parade, a military jeep cruises through downtown under the command of a VFW member. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Amber O’Laughlin, her husband Luke and their kids Ryan, 5, and Leiana, 2, sat in folding chairs waiting for the parade to start. Ryan and his friend Jonny Alejos, 6, leaped to his feet and made a nose dive for the pavement when candy began raining down on him.

“We’re always in the same spot,” Amber O’Laughlin said. “(We’ll be) visiting Front Street, supporting the Jaycees and having a barbecue at home before the fireworks tonight.”

Even before the parade kicked off at 10 a.m., Karen Betlejewski and other volunteers were dishing up pie and ice cream at the Del Norte County Historical Society. The Historical Society received more than 90 pies this year, flavors ranging from apricot and apple to wild blackberry and huckleberry.

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Betlejewski said, adding that half of the ice cream was donated by Wayne Bolman. “Our membership makes the pies.”

It would be hours before the fireworks started, but artists working for Gateway Education were already creating swirls of colors at Pastels in the Park. From a psychedelic giant squid, to a snail with a rainbow shell, each creation represents $100 donated toward Gateway Summer Camp scholarships, said Coordinator Ron Cole.

“The camp specializes in self awareness and survival skills,” Cole said, adding that each painting represents $100 donated toward camp scholarships. “Each one of these paintings is a thank you for $100 for scholarships to send kids to camp.”

Colorfull representives of the Hmong community march in the parade.
Colorfull representives of the Hmong community march in the parade. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Christina Xiong was a last-minute participant in Pastels in the Park. As she bent over her square of pavement, a Hmong dancer in traditional garb took shape beneath her hands.

“I’ve been doing this since I was in middle school,” she said. “With the right pattern and the right color, you don’t even have to think of it. You just draw it. It comes right out of your hand.”

Here are the first-place winners in the parade competition:

Bob and Arlene Eckhardt and Family, bicycle category

Glen’s Bakery and Restaurant, 1960 or older car

Smith River Rancheria, 1961 and newer car 

Hillah Shriners, “Mini Kar Klub,” customized car

Grace Lutheran Preschool, children

Gasquet Fire Department, fire truck

Bicoastal Media Sportscasters Club, business float

Del Norte 4-H, non-profit float and grand prize float

Smith River Rancheria, miscellaneous float

Del Norte Community Band, marching band

Crescent City Cowgirls Equestrian Drill Team, horse 

Jamie Hayden Family, walking

Jed Smith Mountain Men, walking

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