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The Daily Tar Heel

Fireworks return to Kenan

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2012 Fourth of July fireworks at Kenan Stadium.

Fireworks at Kenan Stadium were revived Wednesday night with a bang.

Throughout the night, Mike Ballard, a Charlotte resident and fireworks technician, worked on the field to prepare the finale fireworks lineup.

“Here we have 160 shots that will go up within a matter of five seconds,” he said.

Last year, the fireworks show did not take place due to town budget restraints.

Ballard, who has been in the fireworks business for 18 years and who has worked in more than 300 shows, said the preparations for Chapel Hill’s celebration are one of the most thorough.

“There’s great planning,” he said. “It’s one of the best-produced shows (I work in). There’s such a community effort on the part of the people here to put it together.”

Ballard stood at the edge of the field as Jessica Carter sang the National Anthem, prepared to light the fireworks’ fuses.

Ron Stutts took over the microphone after the Franklin Street Band performed, “I Will Survive,” to announce the beginning of the pyrotechnics.

The fireworks themselves were set off around 9:35 p.m. to the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s, “Born in the USA,” and lasted about twenty minutes.

During the show, the darkened stadium glowed green from the glow-in-the-dark necklaces provided by Grace Church.

Chapel Hill resident Elaine Frank only had one comment directly after the display.

“It was incredible,” she said.

But the fireworks weren’t the only highlight of the night.

From 7 to 8 p.m., attendees had the option of signing up for or watching three watermelon-eating contests. The top two speediest eaters from each section were brought to the main stage to compete in front of the crowd.

The contest’s master of ceremony, Steve Wells, chairman of Chapel Hill’s Festifall entertainment selection committee, said he’d witnessed some interesting moments as competitors made their way to the championship round.

“I saw a kid throw up and keep eating,” he said. “I also saw a woman who had watermelon coming out of her nose.”

Rebecca Yau was the winner of the watermelon eating contest. She said she had lived in Chapel Hill for only three days.

“I’m looking forward to experiencing my first Fourth of July down here,” she said. “It certainly has been a good one so far.”

Yau won two tickets to a to-be-determined UNC football game, a pool pass to the Homestead Aquatic Center, and a few other prizes donated by local businesses.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said that this year’s fireworks display will probably be remembered as one of the town’s most important celebrations because of the hard work put into it by many different people.

“It was not just the Town of Chapel Hill but all these wonderful businesses, everybody here pitching in a dollar,” he said. “It’s a real community event.”

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