fireworks

The illuminated Interstate 35 bridge over the Brazos River provides a backdrop to the fireworks of Saturday’s Fourth on the Brazos, which now take place at McLane Stadium’s Touchdown Alley.

Waco’s Fourth on the Brazos shifts its location for the first time in its history, moving from downtown Waco’s Indian Spring Park to the McLane Stadium environs Saturday, though the celebration’s main event — the 20-minute H-E-B Fireworks Extravaganza — will still take place above the Brazos River.

The shift in location will provide a new illuminated bridge as backdrop, depending on one’s vantage point: the Interstate 35 bridge over the Brazos River, whose LED lights will glow in red, white and blue beginning 30 minutes before sundown.

City organizers say moving Fourth on the Brazos slightly more than a mile downstream will allow more elbow room for the event, which generally draws some 15,000 spectators to downtown Waco. The move also enables traffic control and parking plans developed for Baylor University football games, with fewer Waco police needed for security in the process.

“We understand that many people are going to miss Indian Spring Park . . . but we have outgrown that location,” city events specialist Jonathan Cook said. “It’s amazing how much more room we have (at the new site).”

McLane Stadium’s Touchdown Alley, a spit of land between McLane Stadium and Baylor’s new Clyde Hart Track and Field Stadium flanked by the Brazos River and a lagoon, will host Fourth on the Brazos, with food trucks located on the stadium side of the space and a performance stage closer to the track facility. The space also will have an area for children’s games and activities.

No seating will be allowed in the stadium, but the Baylor campus across the river will be open for fireworks viewing.

“The campus grounds have long been a popular place to watch the fireworks display, and we are happy to welcome guests to the campus to observe the city’s July Fourth celebration,” Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said.

Those attending will enter Touchdown Alley from the track stadium side and from the pedestrian bridge crossing the Brazos River. Coolers, lawn chairs, blankets and small backpacks are allowed, but not pop-up tents, glass containers, pets and fireworks. Security guards at entry points will check bags and containers for fireworks, Cook said.

Gates will open at 6 p.m. with eight food trucks and vendors operating on the grounds. A corn dog eating contest opens the evening’s program at 7:15 p.m., with Austin cover band LC Rocks starting its set at 7:30 p.m. The quartet plays rock and hard rock hits, with an emphasis on ’80s rock and bands such as Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Journey, Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard and Motley Crue.

A patriotic program starts at 9 p.m. with music from the Waco Community Band, which will play through the fireworks show that kicks off at 9:15 p.m.

That’s much earlier than the 10 p.m. start times of previous Fourths on the Brazos. Cook said the earlier launch simply cuts to the chase. “We figured (we’d) go ahead and give the people what they want,” he said.

The fireworks will be streamed live on Waco city channel WCCC (http://wccc.tv, Time Warner Cable Channel 10 and Grande Communications Channel 810) for those preferring to watch from home.

Free parking is available in the stadium’s Lots A, B and C, with entry at Lots B and C. Handicapped parking is available in Lot D. There is also free parking at the Ferrell Center and in lots along University Parks Drive and on the Baylor campus.

Brazos Parking, across Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from the stadium, will offer paid parking for $10 per car, $65 per RV. Prepaid parking is available online at www.brazostailgateevents.com.

Free bus shuttles will run from Heritage Square to the entrance of the Baylor Law School. Those riding the buses can then walk across the nearby pedestrian bridge crossing the river to the Touchdown Alley grounds.

Another shuttle will run from the Ferrell Center parking lot to the same Baylor Law School drop-off. Shuttles will operate from 5:30 to 11 p.m.

High Brazos River levels will curb use of the river Saturday. Boat ramps at Brazos Park East and McLennan Community College are presently closed, and sections of the Riverwalk are underwater.

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