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Fireworks, Regatta, Pirates win round out holiday

| Tuesday, July 5, 2011, 12:00 p.m.

Jarrod Ranone could find no better way to celebrate America's birthday on Monday than to have his mother, Nancy, shave four stars and "U.S.A." into his head.

"You only trust Mom with this," said the 24-year-old Canonsburg man as he tailgated outside PNC Park.

Ranone was one of an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 people who packed the North Shore, Point State Park, Downtown and surrounding areas for one last hurrah of the holiday weekend.

The Independence Day celebrations — including the fireworks display, the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta and a Pirates victory over the Astros in front of a sellout crowd — went off without any major hitches, although evening downpours sent spectators scrambling for cover.

"At least we might get better seats for the fireworks show now -- everyone's going to clear out!" said George Buck, 56, of Wilkins as he and about 20 other people took cover under the Roberto Clemente Bridge amid a barrage of thunder and lightning. "We're sticking it out."

Many others did as well. City Emergency Management Deputy Director Ray DeMichiei, who has worked 32 of the 34 Regattas, said it's difficult to get exact crowd counts, especially during the fireworks show when crowds are spread through several neighborhoods. Based on past years, he said, the half-million mark seemed a safe bet.

He said police dealt with few criminal complaints this year, adding that he expected more calls for medical help because of the humid, hot conditions.

For David DeRosa, 37, an artist from Westerville, Ohio, the fireworks show was a chance to prove what he's long heard: that Pittsburghers love their fireworks.

"I figure if you're going to see fireworks, it should be here," he said, adding that he was disappointed to see the fountain at the Point not working. "I'm imagining it spraying out water, and it's fantastic."

Earlier in the day during the regatta, two boats adorned with brightly colored dragon heads cut through the Allegheny River. Volunteers pounded drums to keep 20 paddlers in each craft working in tandem as they raced each other between two docks.

Chrystal Harris, coach of the Hoops Dream basketball team in Wilkinsburg, used the races to teach some of her players cooperation.

"It helps us to build confidence," said player Allen Barr, 12, of Wilkinsburg. "It helps us learn how to work together as a team."

Ethan Stierheim lay on his back in the grass in Point State Park, not moving as stunt performer Mike Steidley hopped and twirled his bike over the 6-year-old Upper St. Clair boy.

Ethan said he wasn't worried even as the rubber from Steidley's bike tires passed just a couple of inches over his face.

"I thought it looked pretty neat," Ethan said. Mom Heather added: "He's a pretty daring kid."

Others marveled at a giant sand sculpture by Sandsational Sand Sculpting featuring Pittsburgh and American history, from homages to Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell, to a portrait of Rosie the Riveter, to a portion of the city skyline crafted out of sand.

"I think it's wonderful," said Fran Gayler, 58, of Ingomar. "You would never find a beach in Pittsburgh."

Photo Galleries

Independence Day 2011

Independence Day 2011

2011 Three Rivers Regatta

2011 Three Rivers Regatta

The 2011 EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta runs July 2-4.

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