COOLIDGE — After a two-year wait, hundreds of local residents gathered at Kenilworth Sports Complex to watch a dazzling fireworks show Sunday night to celebrate the Fourth of July. In addition to those gathered on the lawn, even more locals sat on top of cars lined up along West Coolidge Avenue to witness the display.

The fireworks show was adjusted slightly from past years due to safety measures related to mitigating the threat of fires, a major concern during a summer that has seen devastating wildfires throughout Arizona. The display was located on the south end of the park, which limited parking but provided great views from the front fields.

Parks and Recreation Director Ricky LaPaglia was happy that both the fireworks show and the public pool hours were well attended and went off without a hitch.

“It’s a holiday we enjoy, even though we have to work,” LaPaglia said. “It’s a fun event. I love the fireworks and the music; this is 18 years in a row for me.”

The Parks and Recreation team provided snacks, including watermelon slices, while the Hermanos Gueros food truck provided tacos and other Mexican cuisine. New to the event, several inflatable sports games were set up along the south end of the field.

LaPaglia, who grew up in Coolidge, said that originally the city just hosted a fireworks event, but that over time the evening programming evolved to include more things like games and vendors.

The Parks and Recreation staff expressed appreciation for the fact they were able to host the event after having to cancel last year’s fireworks show due to COVID-19.

“It’s great just to see the kids be able to have fun again and not be stuck inside,” said volunteer Dylan Bechtel, one of several manning the watermelon station. “Just being able to be around each other without masks is pretty cool.”

Although the staff wasn’t sure if the gathering was quite as large as prepandemic celebrations, at least one newer Coolidge family, Pastor Josh Richmond and his wife, Heather, were very impressed with the communal festivities.

“The Fourth of July to me is about the freedom we have here in America,” Heather Richmond said. “That we can come out and enjoy festivities such as this and not have to worry about what’s happening around us, that’s a really nice thing.”

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Aaron Dorman is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.