JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Mother Nature's fireworks couldn't spoil Fourth of July festivities across the area Thursday, as tens of thousands turn out Thursday night to honor America's birthday.
A line of heavy rain with some embedded lighting moved north through the area in the early evening. While most of it stayed west of downtown, a brief downpour did reach the Southbank and Jacksonville Landing.
Many scurried for cover, but returned before the fireworks began at 9:45 p.m. (Watch Jacksonville Fireworks Spectacular)
"They are the best," said Isha Chekuri as she watched by Friendship Fountain. "Always the best. No comparison."
After not cancelling its fireworks display last year due to the issues with crowds and traffic, Jacksonville Beach hosted a fireworks display again Thursday night.
IMAGES: Fireworks across the area
"Awesome. Kids loved it. My 1-year-old, he had fun and ... I enjoyed it myself," one father said after the finale in the skies just offshore.
"Best thing in the whole world," another spectator said. (Watch Jax Beach fireworks)
After a brawl broke out at the beach as Memorial Day festivities ended, eight police agencies contributed to security efforts on Thursday. A Jacksonville Beach City Councilman said he was pleased that everything seemed smooth.
Perhaps the biggest problem was staying patient as police controlled the flow of traffic leaving the parking lots and side streets near the best beach viewing areas.
In Orange Park, an estimated 30,000 people spent the day at the Moosehaven retirement community, honoring America's birthday and having a good time.
The live country bands kicked off at 11 a.m., and people were dancing all day. Jerrod Niemann will headline the day.
One military man enjoyed all the attention people were giving to servicemen and women.
"It's a chance to see how much everybody enjoys what I do for a living," said Navy Petty Officer Mark Whittlesey. "You know, people being able to come out and celebrate because of what myself and all the other military personnel do."
One Clay County woman who brought her eight grandchildren to enjoy the festivities was very pleased.
"It's like family-oriented. They can come, walking around, and I really feel they're safe here. Lot of police officers," said Carmen King. "My husband used to belong to the Moose and I think it's really good that they do something like this for the community."
Perhaps due to the rain, the fireworks display actually started 15-20 minutes early, but those who stayed through the rain got a great show. (Moosehaven fireworks)
"It was still fun, you know," said Angela Haley. "It was good to come out and support the military and everybody that's overseas. The kids have a lot of fun coming here. We like to watch the fireworks, and there's a lot of things for them to do, so it's like our family tradition."
Rain wasn't a problem for those gathered for a concert of big band and swing music Thursday evening at the gazebo at Plaza de la Constitucion, followed by Fireworks Over The Matanzas.
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