After a year’s exile to Hughesville Festival Grounds, Backyard Broadcasting’s Set the Night to Music Fireworks 2021 show is back on in downtown Williamsport.
Last year, state guidance resulted in Set the Night to Music’s festival being moved to the Hughesville fairgrounds.
Shawn Carey, the programming director for Country 105.1 WILQ, said Backyard Broadcasting was grateful for the space — but they knew they needed to bring it back home to Williamsport.
“So many people are coming to have a great time,” Carey said.
Matt Allen, who said he has attended the festival in previous years, counts himself among them.
“It feels like previous years — things are going to pick up,” Matt Allen said. “God bless America.”
Eric Smith and Sylvia Turner have joined in on the festivities for at least six years, and have enjoyed every visit.
“It’s good to get people together and get a sense of pride and patriotism for our country,” Smith said.
Turner said her birthday was last week, so she always incorporates the Fourth of July into a vacation of sorts.
“I love America. Everyone’s friendly, there’s a diverse group of people here from all walks of life, and it is fun!” Turner said.
Both Smith and Turner are huge fans of one of the hallmarks of the Set the Night to Music festivities — the enormous American flag cast over I-180. According to Carey, it is the world’s largest American flag.
SFC Dana Ackard of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard said Backyard Broadcasting owns the flag, while the national guard maintains it.
“We take great pride in it,” Ackard said.
Ackard and several of his colleagues had set up a rock wall tower for the public to climb. According to Ackard, it is a great opportunity to recruit for the armed forces.
After Erik Figels finished climbing the rock wall and repelled down against the face of the tower, he explained this was his first year at Set the Night to Music — and that he loved it.
Figels said his favorite thing about the Fourth of July is “freedom.”
Meanwhile, Clarissa Thomas, who said her neighbors brought her out to her first visit to the festival, admitted it is good to get out of the house now that the pandemic is subsiding.
Patrolman Kris Caster of the Williamsport Bureau of Police was on assignment at the event, and said while in previous years there were more vendors, this year things were picking back up.
“Everyone’s coming out, hanging and having a good time,” Caster said. “It brings the community back together.”
Backyard Broadcasting brought in several bands to fuel the parking lot of the Hampton by Hilton Hotel, including the Uptown Music Collective, Last Rebels, Mums the Word, Trip the Light, LEO+KG and Family.
Jay Rice, the owner of Fuddies Ice Cream, Pizza and Subs, said this year is a sign of recovering times–and was much cooler than the last time they came out to sell food.
“The year prior to the pandemic, it was 104 degrees,” Rice said. “This year, it’s 84 in that truck.”
Rice said Fuddies’ staff enjoys interacting with the community at the festival.
“It’s a pleasure being out and having people come out. We enjoy them as much as they enjoy us,” Rice said. “It gives them hope. People want to get out.”
However, the pandemic’s effect has not yet been lost, Rice said.
“There were five [vendors] who did not come out. They were put out of business following the pandemic,” Rice said.
Still, crowds filled the stretch of William Street stretching from W. Church Street to the roundabout at Via Bella Street, demonstrating a clear market for people coming out to socialize after several months of shutting in to avoid the pandemic.
COVID cannot stop tradition, it seems.
“It’s been a tradition now for a quarter of a century. This is ingrained in the community. We had people back in April asking us if we could get back,” Carey said.
“We are grateful to put on this event for the community,” Carey said. “[We hope everyone] just enjoys the music and a slice of Americana as we enjoy the Fourth of July.”