As the bands tuned up Saturday evening, most people at the annual Fourth on the Brazos expressed pleasure with the patriotic celebration’s move from Indian Spring Park to McLane Stadium’s Touchdown Alley.
They said they were enjoying the wide-open space the area offered as they settled in for the live music and the H-E-B Fireworks Extravaganza that evening.
Touchdown Alley was full but not crowded by 7:30 p.m. Police at the makeshift gate where bags were examined for prohibited items could not venture a guess about the numbers who had passed through.
Several hundred also set up in the shade of the stadium, far from the stage but still within easy hearing distance of the Waco Community Band and the Austin 1970s and ’80s tribute band LC Rocks.
Past Fourth on the Brazos events have drawn about 15,000 people. This time, the stadium’s lots A, B, C and D were opened as well as several lots on University Parks Drive, the Ferrell Center and the Baylor University campus. Shuttle buses converged in front of the Baylor Law School building, next to the foot bridge to the stadium, from Heritage Square and the Ferrell Center.
The stadium was not open for seating, but Baylor University opened its campus for spectators to view the fireworks, which were moved up to a 9:15 p.m. start from the 10 p.m. start of past years.
“We understand that many people are going to miss Indian Spring Park, but we have outgrown that location,” city events specialist Jonathan Cook said before Saturday’s celebration.
Most people appeared to be veterans of wide-open Texas summer lawns as the grounds became a riot of color from huge umbrellas shading cushioned lawn chairs, but the dozen or so food trucks were doing a brisk business in cold drinks. Lines at the windows were about 30 deep about 7:15 p.m., with two hours left to go before the fireworks display.
Vendors had said that they were preparing for bigger crowds because of all the extra space.
At 6:30 p.m., Lorena Chavez, with a truck sent by Papi Taco’s in McGregor, said business had been steadily busy. At that hour, she couldn’t compare sales with earlier years at Indian Spring, but said, “We’re expecting a lot.”
The event seemed to be drawing considerable numbers of out-of-town visitors, some who had been wanting to see
McLane Stadium and surrounding facilities.
Ron Richmond, a school coach in Houston who had previously coached in Hamilton, met up with his friend Marilyn Franklin, of Hamilton. He said they settled on Waco because it’s between their locations and said, “I’ve been following all the building going on here and really wanted to see it. I’m really impressed with all they’ve done.”
He added, “I’ve been looking forward to hearing music from the ’80s, too. That was the best decade for music as far as I’m concerned.”
Cory and Holly Oxhandler moved from Houston last year and were here for the 2014 holiday but didn’t get out because their daughter was still too young for big crowds.
‘All this space’
“This year, though, we’re just loving all this space,” Holly said.
Lonnie Wachsmann, of Dallas, said he had been meeting his children Travis and Candace Wachsmann, of China Spring, for the Fourth on the Brazos for years.
“I really like the wide-open space with room for everybody to spread out a lot better than downtown.” he said. “I do miss being right on the river, though.”