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Rain dampens Fourth on the Third

Friday, July 04, 2014 - Updated: 9:39 AM


C-S-E Editor

FORT PLAIN -- This year's Fourth on the Third celebration, held Thursday, July 3, in Wiles Park, was a well-attended event cut short by the sudden arrival of severe thunderstorms and heavy winds, followed by hours of rain.

As soon as the celebration commenced around 3 p.m., Wiles Park filled with attendees, many of them eager to feast on barbecue chicken, served as a fundraiser for the Fort Plain Reformed Church, the sale opening 45 minutes earlier than its original 4 p.m. start time.

The sun was out, kids were running back and forth between the assortment of bouncy rides and youth attractions, including a replica Erie Canal boat named Bonnie Eloise, built by Garth Eggleston, referred to as "a community-minded citizen", by Fort Plain Community Activity Council Chairman James Katovitch. The boat was constructed for the organization to advertise the village at future events and parades, painted by FPCAC members in historically accurate colors.

The park was loaded with 44 vendors and organizations -- more than previous years.

Katovitch said of the packed park, "We're maxed right out on the power and spaces."

Around 4 p.m., a horse-drawn wagon began taking spectators to the Fort Plain museum. The capital region band Emeralds of July took to the stage under the massive entertainment tent, following a set of acoustic covers by Mickey Boslet and Louis Sierra. 

The band only got to play a rocking few, momentum-filled cover songs before their set was interrupted by DJ Wayne Tucker, who announced that the crowd should seek shelter, as a storm was scheduled to arrive in 15 minutes. The storm, he said, would pass quickly and should be followed by clear skies. 

As dark clouds loomed on the horizon, people filled the tent. The band got in one more song before Tucker announced that a tornado warning had been issued, and encouraged the crowd to move under the wooden Wiles Park pavilion.

Less than five minutes later, as the crowd gathered in the cramped space, many of them running from one place to another to beat the rain, the sky opened, drenching the vendors and organizations still attempting to secure their merchandise and products, the wind whipping down tents faster than they could be dismantled.

The bouncy houses were deflated, and as quickly as that bout of bad weather passed -- and good weather seemed a possibility --people began to leave the pavilion to filter back into the park. Those who sought shelter in their cars emerged, thinking the worst had passed, though some vendors had packed it in and called it a day.

At that point, Katovitch explained that fireworks would still hopefully be set off, possibly 15 minutes earlier than their originally scheduled 9:45 p.m. start.

“We have a real tremendous lineup this year -- it’s just the bad weather,” he said. “If it’s raining really hard, we’ll have to call it, but if it’s just a mist, we’ll set them off.”

They never set them off, although the fireworks originally scheduled for July 3 will now be set off on August 31, at 8:30, at Wiles Park.

Petting zoo animals were moved to a tented area as people lined the sides and watched. Suddenly, as quickly as the first storm came, another unleashed rain and lightning over Wiles Park. The animals were hurried back to their vehicles, still in cages, while many of the remaining attendees took off for their cars, deciding to leave for good.

Though a large portion of this year’s Fourth on the Third really ended as soon as the rain began, Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Smith sent out an e-mail just before 6 p.m. explaining that, due to the inclement weather, the Fourth on the Third events scheduled for the rest of the evening were officially canceled.

Earlier in the day, the Central Mohawk Valley Lions Club held a successful fishing tournament, hosted for the seventh year, minus last year's event, which was cancelled due to flooding. About 35 competed in various local bodies of water, the largest fish -- a 17 inch bass -- caught by a nine year old competitor.

"We had a great turnout as far as fish being caught," said Organizer Jeff Jones, noting that over 40 were brought in.

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