By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Fairpark’s first Fourth of July celebration is getting favorable feedback.
“I feel like it was a big success,” said Don Lewis, Tupelo Parks and Recreation director. “All of the feedback we’ve gotten has been positive.”
Fairpark is far smaller than Ballard Park, the previous home for the Independence Day celebrations in Tupelo, but the downtown Tupelo location boasted more parking and the ability to block off a few blocks of Main Street for safety.
“This is the biggest crowd we’ve seen in the park since it was opened,” said Debbie Brangenberg, executive director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association.
It’s hard to count exactly how many people attended the celebration, because the free event had no tickets, but compared to the Elvis Presley Festival, which has drawn 3,500 to 4,000 ticketed participants, Brangenberg estimated there were more than 5,000 people at Fairpark on Thursday.
“When the park was designed, it was our hope it would become a community gathering place,” Brangenberg said. “We appreciate that Don Lewis and (the Fourth of July committee) were willing to take a chance.”
Tupelo Police said security, safety and traffic went smoothly. In addition to the Tupelo police resources, the Oxford Police mounted patrol volunteered to be a part of the festivities.
“The officers and the community adjusted fairly well to the change,” said Tupelo Police Major Anthony Hill.
There were no calls related to cars parked along U.S. Highway 45, but Hill said the police department would discourage folks from stopping along the highway to watch the fireworks because of the safety issues.
Mayor Jason Shelton said he thought the activities complemented Fairpark downtown area; however, before discussing location for the event next year, more conversations must take place.
“It’s too early to decide,” Shelton said. “We’re going to gather feedback and talk to the committee.”