07-05-2018 Firecracker of a festival headlined by heat; annual Watervliet Independence Weekend had

Firecracker of a festival headlined by heat; annual Watervliet Independence Weekend had plenty of events

By Kristie Noack

Watervliet hosted their annual Independence Day celebration last weekend and the new events, which included the cutest baby contest, foam pit, and carnival rides, shared the stage with one other dominating factor: the oppressive heat.

Temperatures for the three-day celebration topped out in the mid- to high 90s, but it was the heat index that was the talk of the town. From Watervliet Business Association members who volunteered their time to kids climbing the rock wall to the Great Lakes Rodeo Cowgirls’ horses, everyone was covered in a sheen of perspiration.

THE ROCKETS RED GLARE… Fireworks lit up the sky over Watervliet Saturday night and made a beautiful backdrop for Veterans’ Park downtown. (Photo by Marge Yetske)

Overall, attendance was down at the festival and organizers summed up the cause in one word: heat. The heat index climbed Friday and Saturday so that the air temperature felt like it was 104 degrees and warmer.

Despite the heat, though, plenty of folks made it out to celebrate America’s Independence.

The fun started Friday with numerous events including the return of the Elkhart Garden Tractor Pull and decorated golf cart parade. North Elementary hosted the golf carts and scooters, and it was Judy and Loretta who won with their “Fishing in Paw Paw Lake” theme.

Carnival rides returned to Main Street, and a couple of new events were held Friday as well. The inaugural Little Red, White, and Blue crown went to Preston Tyler, who is almost two years old. His mom shared that he “loves dinosaurs” and little Preston roared to the crowd.  Elody Long, 18 months, won the Baby Independence crown. Organizer Liz Eggert said, “This is a fundraiser for the Watervliet Business Association, and every donation goes right back into the Independence festival.”  Other participants in the contests were Renly Lopez, Penelope Hunt, Mia McLaughlin, Avery Stroud, and Korbyn Poole.

Independence Pro Wrestling also returned Friday, with action in the squared circle at the Main Street tent.

SO MUCH FOAM!! Charlotte Stotmeister, 7, has absolutely the most fun beating the heat Saturday in the foam pit. Stotmeister said, “It feels great! And, it’s really fun! And, I get all straight A’s in school!” (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

The kiddie parade also returned to the festival, with Anna Layer as organizer. All participants received a ribbon. Entries ranged from Lady Liberty Lyla Current to Ava Thomas, 8, from Sister Lakes riding a bicycle decked out in red, white, and blue to kids driving battery operated power wheels.

Down at the old paper mill site across from Hays Park, visitors enjoyed “Cars” from their own vehicles as the committee added a drive-in movie night to the festival line-up.