'July Fourth symbolizes everything good about America'

Victoria residents share their thoughts about the Fourth of July celebration at the Victoria Mall while they wait for the fireworks and music to start.

"The fireworks are starting!" children exclaimed, running to take their spots on truck tailgates or on top of cars for best viewing.

Excitement from the children, in a crowd of about 10,000 at the Fourth of July Miller Lite Blast Off at Victoria Mall on Wednesday, barely rivaled that of their parents.

"The best part of the whole show is the finale, because it includes every single kind of firework - the small ones, the big ones, the fast ones, all of the different colors," Ross Braune, a Victoria native, described, hands gesturing to thesky.

Wearing illuminated necklaces and American flag T-shirts, children and parents played in the parking lot of Victoria Mall, smashing snappers against the pavement and waiting in lines for cotton candy, funnel cakes and snow cones.

This 30-minute fireworks show and four-hour event took Jay Soule, special events coordinator with Hartman Distributing, about eight months to plan, and cost Hartman Distributing about $25,000 in fireworks and entertainment.

But it was all worth it, said David Hartman, co-owner of Hartman Distributing.

"July Fourth symbolizes everything that is good about America, despite the very real problems we are going through right now," Hartman said. "It reminds me of how blessed we are to live here and have these rights."

A veteran from Goliad, Corando Perez said he appreciates the Fourth of July more since leaving the Marine Corps in 2010, after a tour in Iraq.

Perez spent the day with his family under a Texas Longhorns tent grilling chicken and listening to the bands playing nearby. His baby boy napped in the shade and the children played, waiting for the fireworks.

This average American day is special, said Perez, because men and women have died to make sure Americans can enjoy it.

"It is a day that means a lot to everyone. Or it should, at least, if you are American," Perez said. "Because without this day, we wouldn't have what we have now. We wouldn't be doing what we are doing now."

But that doesn't mean he has to take it all so seriously.

"I am here to just have fun - enjoy the fireworks, enjoy the music, eat some good barbecue, soak up the sun," Perez explained.

Just by coming together as a community, enjoying the music by Jeremy Halliburton and Reckless Kelly and the fireworks show, Perez believes the families are showing support to American troops and veterans.

His father, John Perez, said veterans don't get the appreciation they deserve on a daily basis, so days like this are important to express gratitude.

It is sometimes easy to undervalue the service of the troops, John said, since he views July Fourth differently after his son came home.

"It really has changed a lot, before it wasn't such a big deal to me," John Perez said. "Knowing what he had to do - it changed my way of thinking."

Shirley Flora, a Victoria resident, agreed that Americans tend to forget the reason for Wednesday's celebration.

"The reason they have the privilege to drink that beer and enjoy the day is because the Declaration of Independence was signed," Flora said. "We are the most fortunate people in the world, and we need to remember that and remember why."

No major incidents were reported during Wednesday's celebration, but a small grass fire broke out at Ethel Lee Tracy Park. Capt. James Dearman, of the Victoria Fire Department, said the crew extinguished it with no problems.

Police also said a wreck in the 7600 block of North Navarro Street near the mall caused traffic congestion after the fireworks show.