Dunes Leatherneck Detachment part of Valpo festivities
By James D. Wolf Post-Tribune correspondent July 4, 2013 9:24PM
The audience pays respects the flag as the Dunes Leatherneck Detachment of the Marine Corps League, with (from left) Bill Bennett of Valparaiso, Terri Buenrostro of Portage and Faye Wallace of Portage looking on from the front row. Post-Tribune photo
Updated: August 6, 2013 6:27AM
VALPARAISO — Even before the 6:30 p.m. striking of the colors, families began settling in near Thomas Jefferson Elementary and Middle schools for the fireworks.
They filled in as far south as Evans Avenue and as far east as Glenrose Park allowed.
This year the pre-fireworks show didn’t include the Valparaiso High School band that’ll perform at Central Park Plaza on Saturday and Sunday to honor director of bands Dan Pritchett — who is retiring after about 38 years.
Likewise, Mayor Jon Costas was unable to make the opening to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
But the Dunes Leatherneck Detachment of the Marine Corps League, including members of the Valparaiso American Legion Post 94 and Valparaiso Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 988, posted colors to start the festivities, which included a performance by local band The Crawpuppies and an 8 p.m. reading of the Declaration of Independence by local dignitaries.
“Never miss it,” said Bill Bennett of Valparaiso, who’s attended for roughly 10 years, about as long as the Thomas Jefferson campus has hosted the fireworks.
“(It’s a) good time, see a lot of old friends, a lot of people you know,” Bennett said.
Gus Metrakos of Valparaiso felt the same, noting that the city streets are almost deserted.
“Where’s everybody at,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to get out and meet people, see friends.”
He and wife Carolyn have attended for four years, but this year they took her mother from Key West, Fla., Eva Koester.
Koester said that celebrations in Florida are “not like this” with the big crowd.
For Sarah, Kent and Kenley Gomez, the fireworks are a family tradition, begun last year when Kenley was 1, and they like the atmosphere.
“We do this every year now,” Kent said.
Sarah said, “They were good last year, and they were close to home.”
Anthony Majewski and Nicole Koehn were enjoying their last summer before college with her sister Kelsey Koehn, who returned after her first year away.
“It’s good for the community because it’s something everyone can do,” Nicole said.