BROOKSVILLE — When the Hernando County Fairgrounds, after an 18-year hiatus, revived its Fourth of July celebration last year, organizers were a bit unprepared for the overwhelming response.
Thousands of vehicles flooded the parking lot, with lines of cars about a mile long up and down U.S. 41.
"The turnout was amazing," said Shari Klimas, president of the Hernando County Fair Association. "We were not expecting the crowds. We thought there would only be a few thousand people."
This time, Klimas said, organizers are more prepared. And when the gates open for the second Firecracker Smash'm Up! celebration Monday, local residents and families will find a better organized day of music, games, food and fireworks. Most importantly, there will be more of nearly everything — more help with parking, more bounce houses and games for children and more food vendors. All should help with the long lines experienced last year.
"It was very overwhelming last year," Klimas admitted. "But everyone had fun. ... Even with some torrential rains and some long lines."
Among the day's highlights will be a demolition derby that will start at 7 p.m. Klimas urges people attending to arrive at least an hour early.
"The demolition derby is always a favorite," she said. "Last year, it was standing room only."
There will be musical entertainment from 4 to 9 p.m., including Miguel, Jason Allison and Spin-Lok (classic rock), as well as other entertainers. There will also be a variety of free activities, crafts and games for children, and an area with bounce houses and other inflatables ($5 armband for unlimited use).
A Lego display will also be there, as well as a rescue group offering pony rides and special visitors from Wild Things in Dade City. Horseshoes and cornhole games will also be offered.
And of course, there are fireworks. The evening will conclude with the fireworks display, provided by Sky Candy Fireworks in Riverview. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets.
Klimas said the goal is to make the event bigger and better each year. She said that, along with sponsors, the city of Brooksville "stepped up to the plate" and waived fees and made a donation.
"The kids can have a good time while parents relax and listen to the music," Klimas said. "We want it to be safe, fun and affordable."