Lone Tree celebrates successful Fourth

Storm and online sign-up glitches only hiccups in 2014 festivities

Jane Reuter
Lone Tree's Taylor Rimmer takes a breather from trying to stand inside the water balls at Sweetwater Park July 4.
Photo courtesy of John Klassen
Abba Fab guitarist Scott Pearson entertains the crowd at Sweetwater Park during the Abba tribute band's show.
Courtesy photo by John Klassen
The Yellow Designs BMX Stunt Team entertained the crowd at Sweetwater Park at July 4.
Courtesy photo by John Klassen
Fireworks filled the night sky above Sweetwater Park on July 4.
Jane Reuter
Two-year-old Emma Rotter watches the bungee jumpers through the fence at Sweetwater Park during the Independence Day festivities.
Jane Reuter
Riley Steffan, 11, of Parker, bungee jumps into stormy skies at Sweetwater Park during the Independence Day festivities.
Jane Reuter
South Metro firefighters lead the Lone Tree bicycle parade to Sweetwater Park. The event kicked off the Independence Day festivities.
Jane Reuter
Sarah Mason of Lone Tree gets her face painted during the Fourth of July festivities at Sweetwater Park.
Photo
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For the first time in seven years, Lone Tree's Independence Day celebration went off without a hitch. Almost.

A late afternoon thunderstorm shut down the Sweetwater Park festivities for about an hour and a half, and an online sign-up system aimed at alleviating long lines for the free attractions buckled under extreme demand.

But those were minor glitches in an otherwise happy event, city leaders agreed. Some even saw the storm as a blessing in disguise.

“The rain was perfect because it dampened down everything and we didn't have to worry about fires,” Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Millet said. “I thought it was a beautiful evening.”

Since 2008, rain, fire and man-made hiccups that delayed or canceled the fireworks have done in the annual event. This year, stormy weather came again, but passed well before sunset.

Event organizers announced via loudspeakers about an hour after the park's 4 p.m. opening that severe weather was en route, and they would close the park temporarily as a precautionary measure. Lone Tree and Acres Green residents were undeterred. When the storm passed and the park re-opened, both the sun and the crowds returned.

“I think they all came back,” special events coordinator Lesley Johnson said. “I'm 100 percent sure we had 10,000 people there.”

The park's capacity is 10,000 and by the morning of July 4, the city's supply of 10,000 wristbands — limited to residents of Lone Tree and Acres Green and their guests — was depleted.

Its online sign-up system, a first for 2014 — that was intended to allow people to reserve a spot in line at the water balls, zipline and bungee jump attractions — also suffered ill effects from the crowds planning to attend the events.

While the program — which sent texts to let people know about when their turn would be — worked temporarily for some of the attractions, it failed at others. It also was difficult for those who hadn't signed up online to sign up at the park using smartphones.

“I think it was too many people for the system to handle,” Johnson said. “We're looking into how we can make it better for next year.”

Millet, who stepped in for a working Mayor Jim Gunning, was happy with the way the day's events went.

“There are always things we can improve on, but all things considered, it was a great event,” she said. “Staff worked very hard. From the bicycle decorating down to the selection of food, there's a lot of thought and planning that goes into it.

“It's the birthday of our nation. To have your friends and neighbors there joining you in that celebration, I think is wonderful.”