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Thousands watch fireworks light up New London Harbor

New London — It was all about the fireworks over New London Harbor Saturday night, and everyone on city pier during Sailfest thought they had the best seat.

Shirley Thomas, of East Providence, R.I., claimed one of the pier corners at 3 p.m. Her group of six took turns walking on State and Bank streets, eating and browsing and having someone save the spot.

“We don’t mind chilling. This is the most we’ve sat down all week with our jobs,” said Thomas, a nurse. “Where else would we rather be?”

Not far away though, Charles and Susan Coon, of Uncasville, had them beat. The couple arrived with their son, 21, to stake out their seat at the pier at 8:30 a.m. “We hate being late,” Charles Coon said.

Festival organizers expected nearly 300,000 visitors during the weekend’s Sailfest.

A crew from Garden State Fireworks set up a barge in the harbor for the Mashantucket Pequot fireworks show Saturday.

Cars lined up along every available spot they could find leading into the city, including Route 32.

By afternoon thousands were jamming the streets and the edges of city pier were taken.

Susan and Charles Coon had been up and down Bank and State streets three times, but they didn’t mind. Susan Coon found her favorite minion  — characters from the film "Despicable Me" — for $15, and the family looked forward to their second fireworks show. They also watched in Norwich, she said.

“We’re still celebrating the fourth of July,” she said. Charles Coon, a 40-year U.S. Army veteran, wore a shirt that said “University of South Vietnam, 67-68.”

Thousands jammed the downtown area, with hundreds passing through Waterfront Park onto City pier. Children soaked themselves under the whale’s tail water fountain to get a break from the heat that approached 90 degrees.

Matthew Varnadoe sold funnel cakes, ribbon fries, polish sausage and steak and cheese sandwiches. But the big seller was deep fried Oreos and Reese’s peanut butter cups, or cookies and chocolate dipped in batter, fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Next door, Soda City advertised the “Soda City Challenge” in which passersby tried to drink 40 ounces of soda in less than 20 seconds. They had four winners Saturday as of about 6 p.m.

On Bank Street, parents struggled to push strollers through crowds. Vendors sold scarves, hats, $4 charms, hand-made hula hoops, sea glass jewelry, and hand-painted bamboo maracas. pulled in a crowd trying to show how many pull ups they could do. “A lot of people can’t do as many as they think, and some can do more,” Staff Sgt. Arthur Knight said. had a similar setup at Waterfront Park.

Normand Rioux, of Montville, walked with his three sons and explained that they were headed to a friend’s rooftop patio on Bank Street, “which is directly in front of the barge” that shoots off the fireworks.

Scott Adams, of Killingly, tries to hit all the major fireworks shows, so he planned his visit to Sailfest with that in mind. He brought his mother-in-law and niece with him also.

“The whole Sailfest event you can fill a whole day (with)” he said. “But we always make a point of coming down the day of the fireworks.”

Twitter: @DStraszheim


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