MANATEE -- A 15-minute rain and lightning delay to the start of the Fourth of July pyrotechnics show Saturday night failed to dampen the enthusiasm of thousands of people camped along the banks of the Manatee River in Bradenton and Palmetto.
Once ignited, the 30-minute extravaganza drew more than few "oohs" and "ahs."
"It was awesome," said U.S. Army reservist and Bradenton resident Justin Laukaitis, who watched the show from the Bradenton Riverwalk with his date, Lisa Fitzgerald. "It was perfectly proportioned for the town."
The $40,000 annual show, sponsored by the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto and Manatee County, kept the crowd guessing about what would happen in the skies.
From low-altitude shells that spewed fire like Roman candles to big high fliers that exploded with a "boom" and waterfalls of color, the display lit a night sky that put on its own show before the first firework flew.
Backdropped by bolts of lightning over north Palmetto, the event pit
ted celebratory explosions of national independence against the raw power of nature.
Steve Burt, a 27-year-old Pennsylvania native who moved to Bradenton two years ago, said the fireworks show delivered.
He was particularly impressed with an effect that looked like a stream of sparks spiraling into the sky.
"I saw some things I've never seen," he said.
His only criticism was he would have liked music played along the Riverwalk with the fireworks.
The show came just after country music star Rodney Atkins finished his act in Sutton Park in Palmetto. The fireworks finished a day's worth of activities held between the two river cities.
The Palmetto Fourth Festival in the park was expected to draw more than 10,000 people.
Still, fireworks had the most firepower of all the Independence Day festivities.
Bradenton resident Aaron May chose to spend his Fourth of July having family time away from the crowds. But he finished the day out with a fireworks show.
"I thought it was good," he said as he packed up lawn chairs and the children.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.