Janesville celebrates Independence Day
JANESVILLE Traxler Park on Monday was like a country song about summertime fun: kids splashing in the river, brews and oldies in the beer tent and a tractor pull on the hot pavement.
Independence Day on the Rock, the Rock Aqua Jays’ Fourth of July celebration, suffered from a sun so brutal the Jays could have sold seats in the shade, but entry was free.
Aqua Jays President Joel Shapiro said the club will evaluate the event and decide in coming weeks whether to sponsor fireworks again next year.
Shapiro said the fundraising was $2,500 short of its $17,500 goal by Monday afternoon, but he expected a major donor to come through, along with the money deposited in donation cans at the park, to put them over the top.
Shapiro said the fireworks were contracted to be 22 to 24 minutes long, one minute longer than last year. The Jays also paid extra for a bigger finale.
Shapiro estimated the crowd Monday night at 6,000 to 7,000, which was larger than last year.
“Based on crowd reaction, I think it was a great show,” he said moments after the fireworks ended.
Shapiro said Aqua Jays who were collecting donations at the water ski show said they had never seen so many people lined up so deep along the river, and he hoped those people would donate on the way out or donate online at IDayOnTheRock.com/donate.
Here are a few of the scenes from the day:
-- The folks who splashed their way down the river in the Anything That Floats contest seemed to have the biggest and coolest fun of the afternoon.
The winners were Riley Bendorf, 13, and Mason McDowell, 16, both of Janesville, who paddled a 25-year-old basswood dugout canoe made by Riley’s stepfather, Curt Ranum.
“They paddled well, and I’m proud of them,” he said.
The rest of the field was a tribute to imagination, ingenuity and kookiness. Second-place finishers were Joel Wray and Kevin Cole of Janesville, in their Barking Spider Beer boat, a tribute to a home brew. They built a sturdy craft that used two large plastic barrels and two picnic coolers for flotation and a skull-and-crossbones sail.
“We would have done a lot better if we had some wind,” Wray said.
The funniest craft was a floating picnic table paddled by four women and a man who eventually abandoned their paddles and swam. They didn’t seem to mind being towed to the finish line.
A bicycle-powered craft entered by the Redneck Yacht Club sank soon after the race began and won the Quickest to Sink or Take on Water award.
The Most Creative award went to a raft called the Margaritaville Way, which featured tiki torches, palm fronds and an attitude on the part of its occupants that it was all about the journey.
The race had 11 entries, and the Aqua Jays are thinking of doing it again next year.
-- How hot was it? Downtown Janesville recorded 88 degrees. That and the brutal sunshine drove some people to set up their lawn chairs under the bleachers for the Janesville Idol contest along the waterfront.
-- Alyssia Dominquez, 17, a Kettle Moraine High School student, won the singing contest, performing Gloriana’s “Lead Me On.” She was invited to sing the National Anthem for the Aqua Jays’ show Monday night.
Leah Kasprzak, 14, a home-schooled student from Janesville, took second, singing Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue.”
-- Elmo Brown, 74, of Janesville, wore a blue, short-sleeved shirt with a stars-and-stripes tie and matching visor to the event. He said he has always dressed that way in public.
The red-white-and-blue regalia were in honor of his brothers, who served their country in the military, Brown said.
-- The food was like most of us—of immigrant origins: hot dogs, tacos, pizza, cotton candy and Rollin Pin Bakery’s eclairs and cream puffs. The cheery and energetic Bob Hiller has been churning out the summertime treats in these parts for longer than most of the people at the park have been alive.