Spectacular show wows at 21st annual Celebrate America

People gaze at the fireworks show during Celebrate America from the Nichols Brothers Boat Builders yard on July 3.

The 21st annual Celebrate America went off without a hitch and ended with a bang Friday.

After a full day of entertainment at Freeland Park, which included a magician, bands, food vendors, bounce houses and face painting, hundreds gathered to watch a 20-minute display of fireworks light up an Independence Day night sky.

The event was put on by South Whidbey Assembly of God with donations from dozens of people and businesses.

The children ruled the beginning of the day as they relentlessly conquered large inflatable bouncy houses and had their faces painted by volunteers. One such volunteer was Clinton resident Jenny Law, who noticed the eager children slightly outnumbered painters and promptly assisted in painting faces.

“The lines were looking long, so I decided to help out,” Law said.

Evan Thompson / The Record | Millie Finley, 4, of Clinton has a heart painted on her face.Law used her skills from one of her hobbies, water color painting, to paint numerous designs on the children’s faces. While some were less specific in their design ideas, others, like Millie Finley, a 4-year-old girl from Clinton, were full of creativity. She asked for blue and red hearts around her eyes and tiger stripes across her cheeks.

Many also enjoyed the talents of Magician Jeff Evans, who performed on stage at 7 p.m. During one of his card tricks, Evans relied on a volunteer to pick a card from a deck. But when the volunteer’s card and Evans’ didn’t match at the end of the trick, Evans smiled and claimed that the volunteer “must be wrong.”

Whether it was by design or improv, Evans sprinkled doses of humor that entertained both children and adults.

“I think it went great, things went without a hitch,” said Matt Chambers, pastor of South Whidbey Assembly of God church. “People loved the entertainment.”

The Total Experience Gospel Choir took the stage shortly after 8 p.m. Founded in 1973 by Patrinell “Pat” Wright, who still leads the group, the choir has performed for well-known figures in the U.S., such as former President Bill Clinton, as well as recording a track on Dave Matthews’ CD “Some Devil.”

Evan Thompson / The Record |Patrinell “Pat” Wright of Total Experience Gospel Choir sings during a performance on the main stage at Freeland Park. Below, Millie Finley, 4, of Clinton has a heart painted on her face.

“I always have fun up there,” Wright said. “I love what it does for me. It has been such a blessing.”

The choir has traveled to 28 countries, such as Russia, Germany and Japan, over the course of its 42-year history.

Wright’s favorite song out of the choir’s performance was “Be Grateful.”

“The meaning behind it is that you’re still here, so be grateful,” Wright said. “It could be your last time.”

Next up was Maggie’s Fury, a seven-person band from Bellingham, who performed using a variety of instruments including the banjo, fiddle, and flute.

Combining melodies of the Irish fiddle and harmonies likened to Eastern Canadian Maritime traditions, the band touched upon modern folk, Irish, and Celtic rock.

While the event ran smoothly, things weren’t perfect, according to Chambers. The number of concession stands were down from a year ago.

“We were down on a few concessions, I wish we had a few more,” Chambers said. “We typically have had a little more variety. But some businesses have gone out of business or moved off the island.”

Vendors served a variety of foods such as egg rolls, veggie fry noodles, chicken curry, and, of course, American favorites like hot dogs, hamburgers, curly fries, and cotton candy.

While they may have had fewer vendors, there were more volunteers this year, according to Chambers.

“The thing I want to communicate is that we appreciate immensely the community support,” Chambers said. “It’s the community that finances the whole thing, so we appreciate all their support.”