Lights over the lake

By Vanessa Kahin
Staff writer
vkahin@cnjonline.com

Allowing the flood waters at Greene Acres Park an extra 24 hours to recede before hosting the Smoke on the Water fireworks display meant more family time for some; for others, no solution to certain food cravings.

Now in its 18th year, Smoke on the Water was meant to take place Friday and have, aside from fireworks, live music, food vendors, arts and crafts and various other family-oriented items.

Instead, heavy rains early Wednesday caused the lake at Greene Acres Park to swell.

Staff photo: Joshua Lucero Fireworks began at 9 p.m. and lasted 15 minutes, complete with large aerial displays and a barrage of ground fireworks that lit up the night sky.

Staff photo: Joshua Lucero
Fireworks began at 9 p.m. and lasted 15 minutes, complete with large aerial displays and a barrage of ground fireworks that lit up the night sky.

The flood waters covered not only the park but a section of Main Street and a football field behind Marshall Middle School.

Smoke on the Water was promptly pushed back to Saturday, and took place sans the glow sticks and funnel cake; and only had its traditional fireworks. The non-stop 15 minute display was one of explosive color against the night sky punctuated by “oohs” and “ahhs” with each crack or boom from the thousands gathered to celebrate. Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders estimated the crowd at about 2,500 people.

For Clovis native Dave Baker, the temporary chaos meant more time with family and friends.

Some friends, he said, he only sees once a year, during the Smoke on the Water event.

Baker is a supervisor with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Had Smoke on the Water taken place Friday, as it was originally scheduled, Baker would have been working most of the event instead of sitting on a bench in a covered area of the park; eating his fill until the fireworks display began.

“This is the first time in 15 years that I’ve had the Fourth of July off,” said Baker, who’s been with parks and recreation 24 years.

Although he had to help clean trash and debris left over following the flood, Baker had plenty of time to dedicate to loved ones.

Baker’s wife, Debbie Nippert, said the Smoke on the Water gathering is an annual tradition for their family, one they’ve been partaking in at least 10 years.

Relatives joining them included Nippert’s parents, her two children, her sister, her brother, a nephew, the nephew’s girlfriend and three grandsons.

Staff photo: Joshua Lucero Spectators filled Green Acres Park and the surrounding parking lots to enjoy the Smoke On the Water fireworks display.

Staff photo: Joshua Lucero
Spectators filled Greene Acres Park and the surrounding parking lots to enjoy the Smoke On the Water fireworks display.

Nippert said they also expected friends, fellow church members and other parks and rec employees.

“It’s kind of like a potluck,” Nippert said of the annual reunion. “We all just bring a dish, and watch the fireworks. Doesn’t that sound like a winner?”

For the Gallegos family, who mostly relaxed on a blanket near the lake, the event was indeed a winner — but it could have used some of its traditional, carnival-style food items.

“My mom was talking about the corn the entire day,” said Chrystian Gallegos of her mother, Carmen Gallegos. “I was craving the funnel cakes.”

This is the third year that the Gallegos family — including Chrystian’s sister, Genesis — has attended Smoke on the Water. They’ve been attending such local events since moving to Clovis from Tucson, Arizona.

For the Gallegos family, it’s the peacefulness of a small-town atmosphere — one where they say hello to friends and wait for the sun to set — that they like the most about Smoke on the Water.

“We rest, we relax, we enjoy it,” said Carmen Gallegos of the event.