Barbeques, fellowship mark Independence Day

Across Pine Bluff on Friday, residents relaxed with relatives and friends over barbecue cookouts and remembered the sacrifice of Americans from the past and present in securing a free nation on Independence Day.

Kandace Cranford enjoyed a family reunion with her son Aaden Martinez, who turned 5, and daughter A’Marie Martinez, age 3. She grew up in Pine Bluff and currently lives in Des Arc.

“We are going to swim and eat,” Cranford said. “We are excited about our family coming down.”

“We are glad to be free in America,” Cranford said. “I am glad we do not have people over here bombing us. I am glad our kids can live in a safe environment.”

Jeanie Martin likewise remembered American service members who have fought since its founding in 1776 through the present. Because of their sacrifices, America is a beacon of individual liberty and unbridled opportunity.

“We can wear what we want to wear, marry who we want to marry and worship who we want to worship,” Martin said. “I wish the best for the people who are over there (serving in the armed forces). A lot of people are not with their families today. A lot of people died for our freedoms. We pray that they get home safely.

“Americans take [freedom] for granted,” she said. “Most Americans do not think about the purpose of today.”

Racquel Martinez said she misses her family because she works on a pipeline in many other states during the majority of the year. She relished seeing her family members.

“We have a great country and I am glad we have the freedom to come out and celebrate,” she said. “I wish everybody a happy and safe Fourth of July.”

Tony Dixon came to a family reunion at Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Regional Park on Friday morning, a tradition he has done most Independence Days during his 42 years.

He equated the day with family, food, swimming and ideal weather, and looked forward to cooking chicken, hamburgers and pork ribs. With low humidity, a slight breeze, and temperatures in the 80s, the weather proved perfect.

“If it stays like this all day, we’ll be OK,” Tony Dixon said.

His brother Larry Dixon, 44, reflected on the Americans who are serving in wars in defense of the American way of life.

“I like that we get our freedoms,” Larry Dixon said. “I wish there was something we could do for our veterans around here. Because if it were not for them, we would not be able to celebrate like we are today.”

He would be cooking on the grill, and enjoying family members, and making new friends.

“The United States is all about being friendly,” Larry Dixon said.

Catherine Wyrick came to the park for a family reunion with her daughters Crystal Dean, Courtney Wyrick and Donyelle Wyrick. They brought chicken, ribs, baked beans, cole slaw and hot dogs and found a place in a shaded area.

“Everybody is getting together and enjoying themselves,” Catherine Wyrick said. “We are enjoying the weather. I love it windy. When the sun starts beaming, I have to get in the shade.”

She comes to the park on most Independence Days and in the fall. She was awaiting the arrival of extended family members and expected the children to swim in Lake Langhofer.