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Observers celebrate the 4th at beaches, parks, and festivals

It was a picture perfect, this Independence Day.

On a sunny and pleasant Saturday, thousands – many clad in America’s colors – headed to parks for picnics, went to the beach to cool off, ate hot dogs and corn on the cob at festivals and made a beeline to Canalside in anticipation of a holiday-rattling fireworks extravaganza.

Beachgoers like Jessica and Jason Flores spent the day at Woodlawn Beach – a tradition.

“We usually come every Fourth of July. We love it here because there’s a lot of stuff for the kids to do, and it was supposed to be warm today,” Jessica Flores said.

The parking lots were jam-packed, with park employees diverting cars onto the grassy areas for additional parking. Hundreds spread out their blankets and chairs and basked in the sunny afternoon.

For the Flores family, the holiday means extra time to rest, relax and spend time with loved ones.

“The Fourth of July means celebrating our country, family. Holidays are excuses to go out and have fun, and obviously eating good food,” Jessica said. “We try to tell our kids to appreciate our country.”

Despite the holiday backdrop of heightened security against a terrorist attack, Jason Flores said he wasn’t concerned about any of the possible threats to the U.S.

“I think it’s a little overrated. I think the media has a lot to do with the fear factor going on,” he said.

Jill and Barry Dunstan also took their two children to Woodlawn Beach to enjoy the warm weather because their original plans to go to MLK Park didn’t pan out. The two were not concerned about heightened security, either.

“I guess I kind of stay out of that stuff. If it doesn’t necessarily impact me, I don’t notice and/or think about it,” Jill Dunstan said. “I generally feel pretty safe.”

Others, like Malisa Thompson and Andre Frank, were happy to see the additional precautions taken nationwide, and in the Buffalo area. The two spent the day at the splash pads of MLK Park.

“The more security the better, if you ask me,” Frank said. “You need to keep people in their place.”

MLK Park was bustling with families picnicking and sitting in the shade.

Buffalo waterfront officials spent much of the last several days preparing for its biggest Independence Day celebration. Tens of thousands of visitors descended upon Canalside for a full day of family activities, food trucks, the Saturday Artisan Market and live music.

Canalside officials met with government officials to map out safety and security plans as a precaution, and Buffalo Police were stationed throughout the downtown area. Security guards also checked bags as attendees made their way to Canalside.

Lisa and Paul Gramza said while they were intrigued by the security, that didn’t dampen their plans to enjoy the day’s festivities. The two frequently visit Canalside, but this was the first time the two spent the holiday there.

“I’m very proud of our country, and I’m proud to be an American. It’s an important day,” Lisa Gramza said.

Kate and Jakob Smidt and son Jonathan, residents of Amherst, say they try to make it to Canalside as often as they can, and today was no different.

Jonathan, who is 8, said his favorite part of the Fourth of July is the fireworks – and playing with glow rings.

“It’s nice to see what they’ve done and can keep doing (with the area),” Jakob Smidt said.