Eyes on the sky: Fourth of July fireworks, festivities draw thousands

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Mall of Georgia and the Gwinnett Braves each drew thousands of people Saturday, many of whom showed up to not only shop or watch baseball, but to celebrate Independence Day.

For Victor Olufeso of Auburn, the mall's fireworks display is what drew him, his wife, Keisha, a family friend and their four children out into the Georgia heat.

"We've gradually moved over into the shade and it hasn't been too bad," Olufeso said. "We heard the mall was having a celebration, a few activities, so here we are."

As part of the seventh annual Fabulous Fourth, festivities, sponsored by the Gwinnett Daily Post, included live performances by musical acts Johnny Rockbridge, The Woodys and the Mike Rogers Band. The parking lot was transformed into the Kids Zone, complete with inflatable jumpers and slides, carnival games and train rides.

With their five children, Winder residents Vince and Darlene Dalton set up picnic-style at the Village Amphitheatre's lawn, just in front of the stage. The couple said they were impressed with last year's fireworks display and expected the same quality this year.

The music and festivities were nice, Vince said, but the family's reason for showing up was deeper than just fun and games.

"It's out of respect for all soldiers and our freedom," he said. "For everything they do for us."

At dusk, pyrotechnics lit the Buford sky, followed by a screening of the 1996 movie "Independence Day," shown on a 60-foot screen at the amphitheatre.

Just a few miles down the road, fans at the sold-out Gwinnett Braves stadium were treated to what team officials called the largest "fireworks extravaganza" in Virginia before the squad moved from Richmond this year.

Fans dressed in red, white and blue flocked from the overflow parking lots to the stadium waving American flags and ready to enjoy our country's pastime.

Before the game, Rusty Williams said he and his family regularly attend G-Braves games. The last two days, they have spent much of their time at various Independence Day celebrations.

"I love the Braves, now, but today is even bigger than this team," Williams said. "It's about coming together as a country and honoring those who died and who are still dying for our freedom."