Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Tori Kyle, 2, of Buford points out a train ride while waving her American flag during the Fabulous 4th Festival at the Mall of Georgia in Buford on Wednesday. Hundreds attended the festival which included live music, games, raffles and fireworks.
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BUFORD -- As she stood in the parking lot at the Mall of Georgia, Kayla Hampton had a well thought out plan to handle the heat, and enjoy the Fabulous Fourth festival almost simultaneously.
While the mall was open until the early evening hours, Hampton said nearby air-conditioning inside was the place to beat the heat.
Until then, she was happy to watch her sister, Sasha, 2, play in a bouncy inflatable, that blew seemingly endless amounts of suds and bubbles.
"It's hot," said Hampton, an Alpharetta resident. "But it's worth it."
The 10th annual event that has become a tradition for some, expected about 125,000 people, Marketing Director Carol Cox said. Three bands provided live music that kicked off with the Vintage Boogie Band, which had patrons bobbing their heads, slapping knees and tapping toes, all while fanning themselves, or wiping sweat with beach towels.
"You see more smiles, it seems more open. Everyone is family, or a friend," said Jon Schlanger, the band's bassist.
Of course the main attraction was the 14-minute fireworks show that lit up the skies outside of Nordstrom. During the fireworks display, familiar patriotic and classic Georgia songs were played for the crowd. The fireworks were set off in an overflow parking lot in front of where they have been in previous years because trees have grown and blocked some views, Cox said.
One of the first groups to arrive was Travis Cashell and his mother Gayla Cashell, with friend Maxine Osborn. They arrived at about 2 p.m., and parked in the shade behind a tree outside of Nordstrom.
Travis said they arrived early to get a good spot for the fireworks, but also to get out of the house.
Travis said this is the third time in the last four years they've attended the Mall of Georgia event.
"I think they do a good job of hosting it, because they gear it toward the families and kids every year," Travis said. "They've got a lot more to do over here."
While the live music and inflatables were a draw, one highlight was the dunk tank exhibition of Mall Manager Joe Piccolo. Proceeds from that event went to support the Simon Youth Foundation, which helps to support students who are at risk of dropping out of high school.
The family atmosphere was more of the same for the mall, Cox said.
"On the Fourth of July, we just make it a larger gathering," she said.
The meaning and reason for the day, though, wasn't lost on the Cashells.
Gayla Cashell said she celebrates the Fourth because of, "our freedom, and the people who fought wars to keep our freedom."