‘Lights in Flight’ returns to downtown after restrictions ease

Sebastian Hartman, 7, plays in the water fountain at RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton on Saturday. Eileen McClory / Staff
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Sebastian Hartman, 7, plays in the water fountain at RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton on Saturday. Eileen McClory / Staff

On Saturday, people gathered in Riverscape Metro Park for the city’s annual Fourth of July festival, “Lights in Flight.”

It’s Dayton’s recreation department’s single largest event, typically attracting more than 50,000 people, according to the city.

The event was canceled last year, but able to go forward this year due to an increased number of people getting vaccines and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine lifting the restrictions on large gatherings, said Stephan Marcellus, recreation manager for the city of Dayton.

“When we started planning for this event, we didn’t know if we were going to be able to have it because of the restrictions, so everything was kind of at a standstill,” Marcellus said.

The Lyd Band at the "Lights in Flight" festival at RiverScape MetroPark on Saturday, celebrating Independence Day. Eileen McClory / Staff
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The Lyd Band at the "Lights in Flight" festival at RiverScape MetroPark on Saturday, celebrating Independence Day. Eileen McClory / Staff

The festival started at noon, featuring food trucks and live music. Fireworks over the river began at 10 p.m.

The festival still ran into snags. With a fireworks shortage, Marcellus said it was more difficult to get the number of fireworks the city would usually be able to set off for their fireworks display.

Marcellus said planning sped up once the restrictions were lifted, and he was hopeful for a good turnout at the 2021 festival.

“It’s a great chance for people to come out and kind of relax a little bit because we’re outside,” Marcellus said. “There’s not that same nervous stress, that risk of being inside.”

The city did ask people who had not been vaccinated to wear masks.

Venders at the street fair on Monument Avenue at the "Lights in Flight" festival at RiverScape MetroPark. Eileen McClory / Staff
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Venders at the street fair on Monument Avenue at the "Lights in Flight" festival at RiverScape MetroPark. Eileen McClory / Staff

Marcellus said he and his staff are also a “little rusty” after not planning an event like this for a year, but he said he hopes it looks like years past.

Sam Heinzen, a local resident, came to the festival with Jack Hall. Hall said the two were “music enthusiasts.”

Hall said he had been to the festival once before, several years before, but was enjoying the live music and being outside in good weather, without the threat of COVID-19 omnipresent.

“It’s nice just to get out,” Heinzen said.