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Pancakes, pyrotechnics and patriotism: Boulder City’s Fourth of July festivities are a daylong family tradition

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Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Members of the Boulder City Heatwave swim club march in the parade during the 67th annual Damboree Celebration in Boulder City, Nev. Saturday, July 4, 2015.

67th Annual Damboree Celebration

Beth Vandenberg reacts as a bucket of water is dumped on her head during the 67th annual Damboree Celebration in Boulder City, Nev. Saturday, July 4, 2015. Launch slideshow »

When it comes to watching fireworks at a Fourth of July celebration, there are only three words Mike Pacini thinks people need to know

“Ooh, aah and oh,” he said of the involuntary chant of rapt spectators. “Once the fireworks start, you can usually hear a pin drop before the first explosion. Then collectively, that’s when the crowd says it.”

Tuesday is Boulder City’s 69th Damboree Celebration. Through its growth and changes over the years, Pacini has been a consistent fan.

Arriving in the sleepy town in 1969 when he was 2 years old, Pacini has collected nearly 50 years of memories celebrating Independence Day in the heart of Boulder City. “And I never get tired of it,” he said. “It’s like living in a Norman Rockwell fantasy.”

The Pancakes

7 a.m.

• Rotary Pancake Breakfast: Bicentennial Park, 1100 Colorado St.

The Damboree is known to attract 10,000 people throughout the day, which starts with a 7 a.m. pancake breakfast.

“I’ve seen everyone from the governor to senators serving breakfast,” said Roger Hall, director of Boulder City’s Parks and Recreation Department. “I’ve also seen the line stretch to as many as 500 people.”

Pacini feeds off that energy, because it builds with each layer of the celebration. He remembers marching in the parade as a student-athlete and as a longtime city councilman, though his focus now is on keeping the crowd going through the afternoon and night as the event’s official disc jockey and overlord of the party vibe.

“Fourth of July out here is like none other,” Pacini said.

The Parade

9 a.m.

• Damboree Parade:

Place: Begins at Colorado Street, down Nevada Highway to Fifth Street, to Broadbent Memorial Park at Avenue B and Sixth Street

Details: The parade kicks off with a flyover by the Boulder City Veteran’s Flying Group. The Water Zone, where parade spectators can partake in water play, is from Avenue A to Avenue B and Avenue B to the end of the parade at Sixth Street.

Pacini describes his childhood emotions around July 4 as though it were Christmas. He said he and his sister would wake up early, right before the cars would make their way down toward Utah Street where his house was. “You would wake up to horns and music and get really excited,” he said.

Today, the parade usually has about 100 entries, including local and state politicians, high school bands and sport teams. During the hourlong march, cars and floats travel from Colorado Street down Nevada Highway. And for as long as he can remember, Pacini has been part of the show.

There are two distinct parts: the water zone and the nonwater zone. In the water zone, people are welcome to fire their squirt guns (but leave the water balloons at home).

“I used to do it,” Pacini said. “It’s all in good fun, but sometimes people get carried away.” Like the time someone jumped on his Jeep and poured water inside, shorting out his stereo and drenching his young son. “But it gets hot, so if you’re looking to cool down, that’s for you.”

The parade ends right before Broadbent Park, which is always where the first part of the party begins.

10 a.m.-4 p.m.

• Broadbent Memorial Park: 1301 Fifth St.

Details: At 11 a.m., there will be a flag raising and singing of the national anthem, with parade trophies presented by dignitaries.

Live entertainment starts at 11:30, with games and contests sponsored by the Boulder City Parks and Recreation Department from noon-1 p.m.

The Parks

4-11 p.m.

• Veteran’s Memorial Park: 1650 Buchanan Blvd.

Details: Parking is $10. The park setup includes a beer booth, food, games and a water park. Pacini’s DJ set starts around 6 p.m., and the fireworks show begins at 9 p.m.

Pacini can still taste the beef brisket with corn on the cob slathered in butter. He doesn’t remember the name of the vendor, but he says it doesn’t matter — “they are all good.”

With midway activity booths presented by local nonprofit groups and food and drinks from dozens of vendors, the park will be buzzing.

“People sell everything from silly string and Dippin’ Dots to hamburgers,” Hall said. “There are also a variety of games.”

He added that many high school reunions converge during the celebration, moving with the crowd to Veteran’s Memorial Park as the evening winds down. Pacini advises getting a parking spot early and bringing seating and shade.

The Fireworks

9 p.m.

• Fireworks: Veteran’s Memorial Park, 1650 Buchanan Blvd.

Hall said the $35,000 display by Fireworks West International should last about 40 minutes.

“It has gotten bigger and better every year,” Pacini said.

When he was little, and safety standards were far more lax, the displays would almost rain down on the audience below. Sitting with his parents, Pacini never minded. “It always looked larger than life.”

He has since taken pleasure in watching his children’s faces light up for the same Fourth of July celebration, a tradition he’s carrying on with young nieces and nephews.

The Late Show

9-11 p.m.

• Music and light show: Veteran’s Memorial Park, 1650 Buchanan Blvd.

Get ready for bubble machines, giant beach balls and lighted smoke blasting 25 feet in the air. Because Pacini doesn’t just drop hits to get people on the dance floor.

The veteran DJ and his wife will be doling out glowsticks and keeping the party going until 11 p.m. It’s special for the couple, who got engaged on Pacini’s stage last year about an hour before the fireworks. He paused the music and dropped to one knee, and the crowd made the moment even more unforgettable.

Years ago, local bands played prior to the fireworks display, but Pacini has performed for five consecutive years at the request of the Damboree committee. “They wanted someone who could play every type of music,” he said, listing Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” as a sure-thing for getting bodies moving.

While the music is playing, people wander through clusters of food-and-drink vendors and midway games. Pacini loves creating their soundtrack, and having the chance to honor military family members onstage.

He talks about the Damboree with joy that’s almost palpable, so it’s fitting that it ends with him playing songs that cue the crowd to mosey on home.

When the smoke dissipates and the roads clear, Pacini loads up and drives home, thankful for another celebration. But it never fails that on his ride home, he will hear a song on the radio and immediately regret not playing it. “I’ll just add it to next year’s playlist,” he said.

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