Putnam’s grand Fourth of July celebration

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Tue., Jul. 5, 2011
Skyla Bromley, Tyler Watson and his sister Alexandria watch from the back of a pickup. Photos by Denise Coffey.
Skyla Bromley, Tyler Watson and his sister Alexandria watch from the back of a pickup. Photos by Denise Coffey.

People lined the banks of the Quinebaug River, staked out railing spots on the Woodstock Avenue bridge, set up lawn chairs and laid down blankets in Rotary Park to enjoy Putnam's annual Independence Day celebration on July 2. Some spectators had arrived by 5 p.m. to pick out choice spaces along Kennedy Drive to view the fireworks, which would not start until after dark, about four hours later.

Dave Williams and Donna Baker sat comfortably in the back of their pickup truck in the Price Chopper parking lot. They'd arrived early, bought a pizza and drinks, and watched the parade of people pass by. At 9:15 p.m., when the fireworks went off, their prime location was perfect for viewing the pyrotechnics that burst high overhead.

Ray Caouette and Michael Presnell sat as close to the Rotary Park stage as they could. Music blaring out of the speakers on the stage made it difficult for conversation, but conversation wasn't why the men and their families were there.

“We're this close so we can feel it,” said Caouette. “The music comes right into your chest and into your soul.” He took a bite of his clam fritter. “I've been to over 25 KISS shows. I've been to 20 Grateful Dead shows. We're old-time rockers.”

Presnell said he liked the feeling of community in the park. “It's almost a thing of the past,” he said, bemoaning what he perceives is a lack of family time these days. On Saturday evening, he was surrounded by families, young and old.

Hundreds of people gathered for the event. Lawn chairs were set up and blankets laid down, as children played with glow necklaces and laser swords. Lines formed at the food booths. Face-painting stations drew in lines of youngsters. Vendors sold toy guns that lit up with the pull of a trigger. The night was clear and the breeze was gentle. It was a perfect summer night.

“When I grew up, I was outside all the time,” Presnell said. “Too many kids play video games. They don't know or appreciate music.”
“Music fills everyone, whether you're young or old,” Caouette said with a smile. “Don't forget to rock and roll,” he said. “If it's too loud, you're too old.”

Four-year-old Anthony Rheume was excited for the fireworks to begin. He and his father and two sisters had come from Maine to visit his grandparents in Putnam. They were all lined up on blankets and lawn chairs directly across from the firework launch area. All of them but Anthony, that is, who couldn't help but jump up and down while he waited. When the fireworks finally began, he raised his eyes skyward and clasped his hands on his chest. He watched as the sky turned bright with bursts of color and the sound of the celebration echoed all across the city.

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