After the annual Fourth of July parade made its way from Central Avenue and Sixth Street to the commons at Eaton Avenue and Holly Drive on Wednesday, crowds descended on the park and its more than 50 booths to eat, drink, play and stay out of the growing Central Valley heat.
Several hundred people visited the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored celebration, which returned to Lincoln Park in full for the first time since 2010. Parts of the park were closed in 2011 for extensive renovations that included new turf, a new play area and a new gazebo.
People moved into the shade as the afternoon progressed and temperatures climbed into the 90s — perfect weather for snow cones, according to Joe “Scoop” Bingslea, who was busy manning the shaved ice machine while a line of people gathered at his booth.
He and his Scoop Shop have traveled California’s festival circuit 25 years, but the Stockton-based Bingslea said the annual Day in the Park is his favorite stop.
“We love it. This is one of our favorite events,” he said. “Tracy just has something real special that a lot of places have lost. … This is a home-town, family Fourth of July.”
On the other side of the stage, children filled the interactive splash area, which was installed as part of the extensive makeover at Lincoln Park.
Longtime Tracy resident Deanna Kenton, who lives within walking distance of the park, said the renovation makes a big difference.
“I’ve been here 26 years, and it’s about time they did this,” said Kenton, referring to the water feature providing relief from the scorching sun.
Travis and Renee Aquino, who moved back to Tracy a month ago from a seven-year stay in the Bay Area, were watching their three sons play in the water. Renee Aquino said her 2-, 3- and 7-year-olds couldn’t wait to hit the water.
“It’s pretty cool,” she said of the festival. “My kids really liked the carnival rides.”
Away from the hubbub of the splash zone, 5-year-old Danica Cerrillos was enjoying the day with her mother. Earlier, Danica was named winner of the 2012 Little Sprout contest.
“I like to celebrate with my family,” said Danica, who will enter kindergarten this fall at South-West Park School.
Her mother, Denise Sanchez, said the morning’s pageant was a natural fit for her daughter, who likes to entertain her family at home by singing and dancing.
“I’m shy, and she’s more outgoing,” Sanchez said. “She is a little firework at home.”
Bean Princess Colby Haskel, 10, was there with Bean Queen Julia Flohr and the royal court to help with the pageant.
“I liked being able to help with the Little Sprouts,” Colby said. “The Little Sprouts are amazing — they’re just so nice.”
Danica was one of many to get her photograph taken with former astronaut and congressional candidate Jose Hernandez, who was at the park along with a host of other candidates for local offices, including City Council and county supervisor.
The candidates were interspersed with craft, information and food booths, alongside a small carnival featuring rides and games and a special kids zone.
The community stage also hosted acts through the late morning and afternoon, including a reading of the Declaration of Independence and performances from Tracy Fitness Center, Lokes Looks, Classic Gymnastics, James Reed’s Tae Kwon Do, Tracy’s Got Talent winner Shawn Harsh, Kim Krenik, Bailey Poole and Felicia Zapata.
Earlier in the day, just after dawn, hot air balloons lifted off from Lincoln Park for the 19th time.
Five balloonists took advantage of the calm morning to take to the sky, while more than 100 people gathered to watch them inflate their contraptions and set sail.
Meanwhile, the Tracy Breakfast Lions Club dished up pancakes and sausages to the line of people that stretched away from the griddles for most of the morning, with several hundred turning out for the Fourth of July tradition.
The traditional celebration continued with the parade at 9 a.m. Residents lined Central Avenue as church groups, political candidates, fitness clubs, businesses and more joined in the hour-long event.
Two floats even blasted water to try and keep the onlookers cool in the growing morning heat.
Fireworks were scheduled to end the evening at 9:20 p.m. Tracy High School’s football stadium will be the prime place to watch the aerial show — admission is $4 for adults and $2 for those 12 and younger.
It will be the last event at Wayne Schneider Stadium, which will be torn down and rebuilt following the Fourth of July.