As the two grand finales of fireworks went off simultaneously during the 2015 Independence on the Square in Covington, some spectators staring up at the illuminated sky had tears trickling down their face.
The sheer volume of the colorful explosives struck an emotional chord with many of the estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people gathered on the Covington Square on July 4, 2015. As this year’s Fourth of July approaches, Covington residents can expect another dose of fireworks and Independence Day festivities, but on an even bigger scale.
Last year 1,200 fireworks shells at a cost of a little more than $27,000 were shot off from behind the Newton County Judicial Center. This year, 2,700 shells at a cost of $30,000 will be shot off from two locations this year starting at 9:45 p.m. Monday.
“This year we’re going to blow the sky up,” said Robert Foxworth, who gathered donations for the fireworks show.
Foxworth has been producing fireworks shows and raising money for the patriotic displays in Newton County for eight years, including the last four in Covington. The former Porterdale City Councilman, who moved to Newton County from Texas in 1987, produced two shows in Porterdale before taking his efforts to Covington in 2012 after then Covington City Manager Steve Horton approached him about doing a show near the Square.
After Foxworth’s first fireworks show in Covington, Mayor Ronnie Johnston approached him and said the city council would help out financially as long as he wanted to keep producing the shows. Since then the council has matched the contributions of Foxworth and his donors dollar for dollar up to $10,000, the total given by the city of Covington this year.
Foxworth raised $12,000 in 2012, $16,000 in 2013, $20,000 in 2014 and $27,500 last year.
“It takes a great collaborative effort to continue the Fourth of July celebration, which is high quality and has become one of our greatest events we have in Covington,” Johnston said. “A lot of people look forward to it and over the last three or four years the fireworks show has gotten better and every year brings in more people.”
Foxworth claims that around 60,000 to 70,000 people came to town -- either on the Square, along Hwy. 278 or even stopped on I-20 -- to see the show. Covington public safety tallied the crowd on the Square alone at more than 8,000 people last year.
While the fireworks are the biggest draw, another staple of Covington’s Independence Day celebration is the music. The musical portion of the Fourth of July activities started years ago with an idea Mack McKibben had of bringing people downtown. The first band that year was the Newton County Community Band led by T.K. Adams, and the list of music performers has grown ever since.
This year five musical acts will perform on two stages: one in the Square Park across from Wild Art and another in front of the Newton County Historic Courthouse. At 4:30 p.m. the music begins and Whiskey Bent takes the main stage. At 6 p.m. the Newton County Community Band and Mass Choir will perform on the Square Park Stage. At 7 p.m. Tedo Stone will play on the main stage, followed by the Hudson Road Band at 7 p.m. on the Square Park stage. Drive Time Band will round out the live music on the main stage starting at 8:50 p.m. From there, the National Anthem will be played at 9:43 p.m., followed by the fireworks.
Fireworks will be launched simultaneously from behind the judicial center, and this year from the building’s rooftop. Foxworth talked with many county and city officials in order to be permitted to use the building’s rooftop as a platform to launch the fireworks, but feels that the location will provide an even better experience for spectators.
“That’s why I wanted the rooftop of the [judicial center], because I’m going to mix it up,” he said. “I want to give people something they haven’t seen before.”
Foxworth and his partners will begin setting up the fireworks on Sunday and finish up Monday afternoon while people are enjoying the other activities offered by Main Street Covington and the Independence on the Square sponsors.
Events will start on the Square at 2 p.m. with activities for children such as a hamster roll, spider jump, rock wall, bucket truck rides and toddler town featuring a touch-a-truck area, inflatables and photo opportunities with three Disney-like heroines. There will also be a hydrant release and a water slide to cool off with, as well as a dunking booth to get someone else wet.
New to the event this year is a carnival-type game featuring water sprayers that for $1. The game offers the chance to win $5 in Main Street Bucks good for anywhere on the Square.
Food vendors selling funnel cakes, kettle corn, hot dogs and more will be on the Square, and all the restaurants and stores will be open.
“If you love music we’ve got that, if you love shopping we’ve got that and if you want to have a funnel cake and all the good food and people watch, we’ve got that,” said Velinda Hardy, Covington Main Street Director. “The activities we have ton the Square that’s a way to really market our town.”