Families celebrating the Fourth of July at Bonita Lakes Park in Meridian continued a decades-long tradition, bringing several generations together to recognize the 243rd year since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Ami Hissam and Kristi Bland have seen the City of Meridian's fireworks display every year since 1997, now with three children in tow.
"I always come early and kind of just sit around and soak it all in," Bland said. "Even if it's hot."
Hissam said that the heat, around 95 degrees, would cool down by nightfall.
"When the fireworks go, it'll be enjoyable," Hissam said.
For the Davenport family, arriving early meant snagging their favorite spot just off of the water underneath some trees by the bandstand and building on a six-year tradition.
"We were here last year when (Karma McCarty) was only 2 and the other three (children) were in South Carolina," said Necie Davenport, who is originally from South Carolina. "This year, we wanted to let them see what we see."
Necie Davenport sat with her wife, Sandra Davenport, coming at 3 p.m. to set up camping chairs and a blanket.
"When the fireworks start, you can see the reflection on the water," Sandra Davenport said. "And there's a nice breeze coming off of the water that cools you down."
The celebration brought together old friends and new, with Diane Reynolds, of Meridian, passing the time with Doug Miller, of Butler, Alabama, while she waited for her party to show up.
"We just met," Reynolds said, laughing with Miller. "I come here every year because I love it; I love the fellowship, the music, the fireworks and the food... going back to when the Meridian Symphony Orchestra played in Highland Park for the Fourth of July."
Reynolds and Miller spent some time cooling off in the shade, sharing a table while they waited for the show to begin.
"I slip up here and enjoy the day when I've got nothing else to do," Miller said about the 50-mile trip. "I've been coming (to Bonita) for the last five years."
Still, the reasons behind the holiday weren't lost of those gathered at the park.
"We come here to celebrate our freedom," Reynolds said. "And all of those who have gone before us so we could celebrate and have that freedom."