There is no two ways about it, celebration of our nation's birthday in Contra Costa County will not be the same this year.
In fact, it may never be the same again. After a quarter of a century, it appears the iconic "Singing Flag" show is gone.
Calvary Temple Church announced last week that it will no longer put on its annual Fourth of July musical extravaganza and fireworks display, devastating news to many loyal attendees.
For many in Contra Costa, and even surrounding counties, the three-day, patriotic musical presentation had become synonymous with family friendly entertainment to celebrate the nation's history.
The show gets its name because a giant flag filled by more than 65 members of the church choir is the centerpiece on the stage.
The show prompted hundreds of bleary-eyed people to rise early on the day they planned to attend and trudge to Dave Brubeck Park in Concord carrying blankets, hammers and nails. When the gates opened at 6 a.m. there always was a miniature land rush as patrons hurried to stake their claim to prime park space for that evening's viewing. Many even based their site selection on what animal their section would be during the audience-participation singing of "Old MacDonald's Farm."
Each night -- usually July, 2, 3 and 4 -- thousands would fill the park to watch an elaborate musical, outdoor stage show put on by church members and volunteers. The show was timed to end each night just past dusk so that those attending could remain to watch a terrific fireworks display.
The show began humbly as a simple church outreach. It was the brainchild of then-music pastor Kent Ferrin. Harley Allen, the church's senior pastor at the time, was a driving force behind its growth and performing arts director Linda Reynolds made sure it had the polish of good community theater.
But it morphed into a massive, time-consuming and, no doubt, expensive undertaking.
The show was always free, although donations were accepted. Church members had always seen it as their gift to the community and a way to show people that church events can be fun.
While the show had concession stands, many patrons came early and treated the day of the show as sort of a cross between a picnic and a tailgate party. Frisbees and footballs filled the air hours before showtime as kids enjoyed the park's playground equipment.
In short, it was a great way to celebrate the holiday.
While we are sad the production had to end, we understand.
As we wistfully acknowledge the end of an era, we would be remiss if we did not offer the hearty thanks of a grateful community for 25 years of outstanding entertainment.