One of Missouri’s preeminent Fourth of July celebrations takes place in the state capital of Jefferson City.
Total attendance could reach 50,000 for a series of events that began Saturday with a concert at the decommissioned Missouri State Penitentiary.
The retired prison itself is also part of the long list of attractions available to patrons on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 3rd and 4th. Prison History Tours take place Tuesday and Wednesday while Prison Ghost/Paranormal Tours are being given Tuesday night. The Ghost Tours cover the history of the site and discuss strange and unusual occurrences behind the walls.
The penitentiary has been a tourism success story for Jefferson City as its number of visitors has jumped from 3,000 to 34,000 since opening for tours in 2009.
Mayor Carrie Tergin includes the historical facility that dates to 1836 into the mix of elements that makes Jefferson City an appealing location for the annual Fourth of July gathering. “We’re the only city in the entire country that has a state Capitol, a river and then a historic prison,” said Tergin.
The goal of Salute to America is to create a prideful, patriotic environment with diversity and a large mix of activities, entertainment, and exhibits.
Events on Tuesday include a parade, carnival and FREE concert by the Capitol. The parade staged by Lincoln University, the local a historically black public land-grant university is billed as “celebrating diversity”.
The Salute to America website notes there’ll be 17 city blocks of themed areas on Wednesday with 7 entertainment stages, vendors, eclectic festival food, beer gardens, live eagle show, historic & military displays, petting zoo & pony rides, a bike ride and another FREE concert.
The downtown area of Jefferson City, although small in reflecting the town’s population of 43,000, is well preserved and active with business in the age of big box stores.
Mayor Tergin thinks the downtown atmosphere adds to the flavor of Salute to America. “Having the festival surrounding the Capitol in the downtown area, it’s just so quaint and it’s a tradition,” said Tergin.
A beer and wine stand stays open until 10 p.m. while the event’s signature “Red, White & Boom” Sky Concert fireworks show starts at dusk on Wednesday, the 4th.
Mayor Tergin notes the display’s title refers to its visual and audio elements. “It’s literally a sky concert as in a concert in the sky,” Tergin said. “You have the fireworks going off and then you tune into the radio and you hear music that’s timed to the fireworks.”
The Jefferson City fireworks show is not the largest or most publicized in the state. That distinction goes to a presentation in St. Louis billed as “America’s Biggest Birthday Party” which Conde Nast Traveler rates among the best in the country along with fireworks displays in New York, Dallas, and Washington, DC.
Fair St. Louis will release 15,000 pounds of fireworks over three nights (July 4, 6, and 7). But according to the Salute to America website, the Jefferson City display will have the largest fireworks shells shot in the state.
Despite the prestige given to the St. Louis show by Conde Nast, Mayor Tergin contends the Jefferson City fireworks display offers a unique combination of features.
“There’s nowhere else in the state where you can come enjoy the capitol as a backdrop, have live music in the evening followed by this amazing fireworks show that’s even choreographed to music,” said Tergin.