By GWENDOLYN WEILER
Moapa Valley Progress
Staff Sergeant Jerad O’Dell, flanked by color guards Darcy Bushman and Darrell Moffatt, carries the carefully-folded United States flag along a path lined with silent Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and their adult leaders. O’Dell respectfully hands it to local veteran Dennis Vance and then salutes as the flag is raised to the top of the pole at the Clark County Fairgrounds by Vance and local veteran Bruce Hollinger. A crowd of onlookers watch the proceeding with hands over their hearts. They recite the Pledge of Allegiance together. Then all join in singing “God Bless America!”
This was the 7:00 am start to the Moapa Valley July 4th festivities held on Wednesday at the Clark County fairgrounds.
During the ceremony, Iaian McMurray, who won first place in the VFW Patriots Pen competition, read his winning patriotic essay. Then local VFW Auxiliary president and Post 163 committee member Lorraine O’Dell, who also happens to be Jerad’s mother, gave a short address.
“This year’s theme is America Strong, and it starts with our hands helping and serving others,” Lorraine said.
She encouraged the crowd to sign up for the various volunteer opportunities they would find as they filed indoors for the pancake breakfast being served by the MV Rotary Club. Tables were set up with signup sheets for various service organizations including the VFW Auxiliary, JustServe.org, The Lost City Museum and Wendy Acres Ranch.
“We won’t turn down helping hands,” Lorraine said.
More than 400 people were served a free breakfast by the Rotarians who showed up at around 4 am to get things started cooking.
After breakfast, the local children gathered around a table of red, white and blue frills and trimmings provided by the Karen Alsum Insurance Agency and Cal’s Repair Center. With these materials they set to work decorating scooters, bicycles, wagons and themselves for the Children’s Patriot Parade. Once started, the parade circled the fairgrounds—just far enough to work up a sweat in the morning heat.
But it wasn’t long before water games and a candy run began, hosted by the local Parks and Rec.
Adults and children alike coule participate in the watermelon eating contest. The adult division came it
at a tie between Daniel Neal and Nick McKibbon. Max Bromley, age 11, won the children’s division.
The morning’s festivities ended with the traditional Firefighter’s Water Fight. The trucks’ hoses spouted powerful arches of water across the field in all directions. The water drenched both children, who squealed in delight, and some anxious parents who just wanted to keep their phones dry.
The celebration recommenced at 5:30 p.m. with a flag retreat ceremony—another moment of silence for our freedoms—and a BBQ dinner provided by the Moapa Valley Chamber of Commerce and Overton Simplot Silica.
Rik Eide of Great Basin Cooking Company donated his time to cook up the smoked barbecue meal. Logandale resident Scott Carson and his family donated time and resources to provide a Hawaiian shaved ice treat to locals.
Meanwhile, a lineup of local talents organized by Rick and Lori Houston entertained the crowd with live music and a dance competition. Cami Jones of Overton said the dance competition was her favorite part of the day. Three of her four boys participated.
After the music, the 4th of July Committee handed out its two annual awards. The Service Award went to Gene and Margaret Houston for their extensive community service throughout the year. The Spirit Award went to the late Ed Stephen, who passed away earlier this year, for his dedicated service to the local 4th of July celebrations since 1995. His brother, Ken Stephen, accepted the award on his behalf.
The Moapa Valley Revitalization Project then announced the winners of its Fifth Annual July 4th Decorations Contest. The Moapa Valley Progress came in first place, the Moapa Valley Water District came in second, and Foremost Realty came in third.
McKenzie Huff sang the National Anthem, immediately followed by the fireworks show, which was managed by Elwin Brown assisted by local volunteer fire department personnel. The fireworks is funded through local fundraising efforts.
Today, residents don’t have to look far to see examples of service in their community. This year’s theme of making America strong through service at home was thoroughly exemplified by the community members and organizations that worked together to organize the day’s events.
Bobby Jones of Overton said it’s this spirit of comradery that he loves most about the local celebrations.
“Here, everyone is family,” he said.