The city of McAlester is ready to light up the night on the Fourth of July — celebrating Independence Day and the sesquicentennial anniversary of McAlester's founding in what the city proclaims will be its most spectacular fireworks show ever.
"This is going to be the biggest fireworks display we've ever had," said McAlester Tourism Coordinator Eddie Gray.
"Some of the shells they're going to shoot Thursday night will be three or four times bigger than any we've had before," Gray said.
McAlester's July Fourth celebration kicks off with the Stars and Stripes FunFest at 5:30 p.m. at the Expo Center. Plans call for the first fireworks to be set off soon after dark, but there will be ongoing activities prior to the big show.
The FunFest features live music, food trucks and face painting prior to the fireworks.
McAlester Tourism Director Billy Sumner said two bands will perform on the refurbished Expo Amphitheater outdoor stage, giving everyone on the grounds a chance to hear the music. Back 40 Fire will perform from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and Walker Reed and the Bootleggers will play from 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Sumner said the best view of the fireworks will be from the Expo Center parking lot and there should be a lot to see — including the firing of a 16-inch shell.
A new pyrotechnics operator will be shooting the fireworks at this summer's show — Hance Pyrotechnics, out of Texas.
Even though this year's Stars and Stripes FunFest is being billed as the biggest ever, that doesn't mean it's going to be the longest. It's expected to last around 25 minutes, Sumner said. At times, expect multiple fireworks to be fired at once.
McAlester Mayor John Browne said the annual fireworks show is a way for the community to come together, and that the "feeling of community" is his favorite part.
"I think it's a nice thing for the citizens and people of McAlester to celebrate the Fourth of July," Browne said.
With the fireworks display coinciding with McAlester's 150th anniversary, and with it being billed as the biggest show yet, the mayor thinks it's the greatest show in southeast Oklahoma.
"It's very impressive," Browne said. "It's always a really good show — one of the best ones around."
Once again, the city of McAlester and First National Bank are sponsoring the Stars and Stripes FunFest. Sumner said this year's show will cost "just under $25,000." He said that's about $10,000 more than last year's fireworks display.
The Expo Center is west of the city, at 4500 W. US Highway 270, on the highway's south side,