Light Up Arlington: More Than Just Fireworks
By Office of Communication
Posted on July 05, 2013, July 05, 2013

For reasons made perfectly clear during his 20-minute act of dousing fire sticks with his mouth, Aaron Stone doesn't perform outside much in the summer, in Texas, in 90-degree heat, as he did Wednesday during Light Up Arlington. The fire sticks he puts in his mouth while dozens of onlookers gasps shouldn't even be lit in such extreme heat.

Yet Stone was a major attraction Wednesday, and it made clear again this year during the annual Fire Works tribute to Independence Day that watching the multiple explosions color the sky may be the big kahuna, but is far from being the only reason worth braving the thousands who pack downtown each year.

"Let me see," said Carol Mendy of Arlington, "I've had Coney dog and chips, my son has been on a horse and train, I've listened to music, had my face painted, his face painted, bought some jewelry . . . we've done all that and the fireworks haven't even happen yet."

Light Up Arlington gets bigger and better every year, its organizers from the Parks and Recreation Department say, which means more people are returning to do more. Part of the reason is how early they often get downtown to get the two big spots: parking and fireworks space.

"We've got this down to a science," said Michael Wallmann, who attended the festivities with his wife, Julie, and three sons ages 6, 9 and 10. The Wallmanns get there no later than 5:30 to find a parking space and map out a "home base" where they ate dinner and hit the kid stuff from bounce houses to animal petting.

"Really family oriented," Wallmann said. "Gotta keep the kids busy until the fireworks. The only time we sit is when we're eating dinner, and they're so excited to be here that takes, oh, about 30 seconds."

Judith Harper and her sister have a master plan as well, which meant not getting there until close to 9, and "praying to the parking gods" for a space. It worked fine Wednesday. Listening to the bands and hitting the vendors are their thing. The Spazmatics, Velvet Love Box and Atlanta Rhythm Section all took the stage. The fireworks are starting by the time they're done.

"We've been doing this, what, three years now?" Harper asked her boyfriend, who looked puzzled before saying, with a smile, that it was her other boyfriend she attended the first two with. Harper went on. "Anyway, the trick is getting here with just enough time to have some fun and find a space for fireworks. We don't need anything. We just stand so we can rush to the car right after the climax."

For Stone the performer, he works steadily until the fireworks when he can pack up and call it a night. "Doing this outdoors is crazy," he said, wiping sweat from his face with a towel. "I'm usually indoors. This is the one time I come outside in the heat. I love performing at this venue that much."


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