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The Fourth of July had come and gone by the time the town came around to celebrating the nation’s birthday in an official capacity.

But when it finally did, no one in the record-breaking crowd that packed Town Field last Monday night had anything to complain about.

Paid for with money from the Lecture Fund, the July 6 celebration featured food, drinks and fried dough supplied by the Groton Firefighters Association and music by Mumblefish and Outreach to warm up the crowd before the main event.

As cars lined every street and filled every parking lot for blocks in all directions, a full moon rose slowly into the sky as the sunlight on the western horizon faded to black.

At last, with the conclusion of the national anthem, employees of New Hampshire-based Atlas PyroVision Productions, Inc. launched the first of 1,200-1,400 shots of the evening.

“I think it’s great to hold this near the Fourth of July,” said 10-year-old Audrey Garon as she sat on the grass with her mother waiting for the show to begin. “It’s kind of like a tradition for the Fourth of July. I think everyone should have them every year!”

“We saw them setting up this afternoon and thought it would be a great community event,” explained Fran Garon, a resident of Dunstable. “It brings people together and it’s a nice, wholesome family outing.”

“It’s very good of the trust fund people to raise the money for this,” added Groton resident James McCarthy, as he sat in a lawn chair a few feet away. “It’s a tough thing these days for a town to raise the money to put on a fireworks display if at the same time they have to tell some of their employees that they’re going to be laid off.”

“I think the town should pay for the fireworks,” commented Joelle Seavey, a former high school student back from college with her friends. “It’s a worthwhile event for the town and provides a good opportunity for people of all ages to gather together.”

“Holding a fireworks display like this is a very good idea,” agreed Amanda Harte. “It’s the one thing in town that brings everyone together and gives us the chance to see people we might not have seen in a long time.”

“We’re all home from college for the summer and we come see the fireworks every year,” said Caitlin Murphy. “This event really brings the whole town together!”

“It’s a social event that gives us an excuse to come down and see kids we haven’t seen since school got out,” said 16-year-old Maeve Kidney.

“Fireworks is something you need to make the Fourth of July fun,” said 15-year-old Francesca Coveno. “It’s something to do on a warm summer night. For anyone who couldn’t make it this year, I’d recommend coming down next year!”

“This is one of the best parts of my job!” said a smiling Police Chief Donald Palma as he greeted folks at one of several points where streets around the Town Field had been blocked off to traffic. “It’s like the town is one big family and everybody’s happy. Everyone’s having a genuinely nice time.”

“The weather couldn’t be better tonight for fireworks,” said Fire Chief Joseph Bosselait as a giant frisbee sailed in the background. “It looks like we’re going to fill the whole field tonight!”

“This year we have to give a great deal of thanks to the Commissioners of Trust Funds Lecture Fund because fireworks were not included in the town budget,” commented Parks Committee Chairman Don Black, as hundreds of youngsters waved glow sticks in the crowds down on the field. “Comparing this year with last year, I’m expecting there will be over 6,000 people here before the evening is over, but I’m always satisfied with the turnout. I like to think of it as a town meeting except without any warrant issues to bog things down!”

As shells screamed into the night sky and delayed action explosions burst into colorful displays that rained down over the nearby rail trail, thousands on the ground were left enraptured by a show that was estimated to go on for about 20 minutes.

But as sometimes happens, the sophisticated technique and skill needed by fireworks handlers to put on such a simple-seeming extravaganza is lost on some who only have to sit and wait to be entertained.

“I’m looking for some noise tonight!” exclaimed a grinning Jeff Gross, arms crossed on his chest as he sat in a prime observation point around Town Field Monday night.