Independence Day in the Twin Cities turned Veterans  Memorial Park in Lewiston and the Great Falls Plaza in Auburn into a sea of red, white and blue, and those attending the 22nd annual Liberty Festival expressed gratitude for their country, their veterans, and their communities.

“We’re here for the fireworks,” said Duane Kierklewski of Buckfield, who wore patriotic shorts and sat in his lawn chair in Auburn overlooking the river while listening to bands playing of the Lewiston side. “It’s the American way,” he said.

Cathy McDonald, president of the Liberty Festival, said the crowd started out a little slow because of Wednesday’s stifling heat, but it wasn’t long before they were coming in droves.

“It’s a great event for the community, and we’re very lucky,” McDonald said. “Everyone is into patriotism now, and we try to educate people — today is not just about fireworks, we also celebrate our veterans and us as a community.”

On the Lewiston side of the river, the band Lacey Chain kicked off the evening, followed by Robert “Elvis” Washington, and Joe’s Garage Band. Flow artists danced with ribbons, and juggled flames while people walked among the monuments to veterans.

Some stood solemnly in front of them, with their head bowed in silent reflection, while others educated their children about the sacrifice the monuments represent.

On the Auburn side, DJ Scotty Dawg led the crowd in a cha-cha slide, and Mr. Drew, with his animals too, stood under his canopy with a snake wrapped around his neck, while Creature, the Tegu lizard, waddled around on the warm tar.

“The animals are loving this heat,” Desjardins said. “This is their time of year.”

The bridge linking the two cities was scattered with people walking back and forth to enjoy all the festivities. Bernard Carey of Auburn said he planned to walk back and forth all night, just like he does every year, and the heat won’t stop him.

Carey was showing his love and appreciation for his country with an outfit of red, white and blue — from his Uncle Sam-like top hat right down to his red and white striped socks. The socks and his bow tie are the newest additions to his outfit, which he has worn every year to the festival.

“I have pieces from all around the country,” Carey said. “It’s my way of saying thank you.”

Lianne and Derrick Leblond of Auburn brought their four boys to the festival, just like they do every year, and sat on the Auburn side overlooking the river with a picnic and a blanket. Both said their favorite thing about America is the freedom.

“I love it because I was born here, and we’re free here,” Derrick Leblond said.

Firdowsa Ali of Auburn was born in Somalia and moved to Maine in 2003. Since then, she’s never missed a Liberty Festival, she said, and neither have her two boys, Hanif, 7, and Hudayfa, 9.

“Both my boys were born right here at CMMC,” she said. “We love the fireworks and the people.”

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