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Pirates, regatta, fireworks perfect on 4th in Pittsburgh

| Monday, July 5, 2010

Boston's orchestra plays "Stars and Stripes Forever." Washington has "The 1812 Overture."

In Pittsburgh, the sound of Independence Day was the crack of baseball bats, the drone of powerboat engines and the thunder of fireworks over the Three Rivers.

Heat, crowds and construction could not prevent tens of thousands of people from flocking to the waterfront for the Pirates' 8-5 comeback win over the Phillies, the final day of the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta and a Zambelli fireworks show to top off a busy Fourth of July.

"When the Pirates win, that's a one-in-a-million event, so it's a great start to the evening," said Brian Nelson, 28, of West Mifflin. "Now we'll just walk around, take in the sights ... this caps off the summer."

Tailgaters like the Fencik family of Jefferson Hills arrived for the baseball game but set up their barbecues and coolers in a North Shore parking lot to tailgate for the evening. The National Weather Service in Moon measured the high temperature at 88 degrees, which didn't bother patriarch Al Fencik, 61.

"After the winter we had, I don't want to hear anyone complaining about the heat," he said. "I'm loving it."

Weather Service meteorologist Alicia Smith said the area's average high temperature for July 4 is 82 degrees, though the record high was 100 degrees in 1911. Near the Allegheny River outside PNC Park, families beat the heat by frolicking in the fountain along the North Shore Riverwalk.

"They've just set this up so nicely," Connie Snider, 48, of Wintersville said while her grandchildren splashed in the fountain. "We're not leaving this city until they throw us out."

Crowds packed the Riverwalk and stood on the Fort Duquesne pedestrian bridge to watch the buzzing powerboats as they raced up and down the Allegheny. At Point State Park, they strained against the chain-link fences blocking off the river walls, steps and fountain that are all under construction. Some set up tents and large umbrellas early in the afternoon to stake out their spots for the 9:30 p.m. fireworks.

"We've been to Washington, D.C., and seen the fireworks at the Washington Monument. It doesn't compare," said Pat Seda, 70, of Monroeville, who waited for the fireworks with her husband Julio, a Korean War veteran.

Robert Green of McKeesport found a place next to the Fort Duquesne Bridge ramps at the Point, where he looked out over the site of Fort Pitt and reflected on the area's historical importance before the colonies declared their freedom.

"What fascinates me is the idea that George Washington came through here," said Green, 67. "There's a lot of history to this city."

For postal worker and Byham Theater usher Don Duncan, the jam-packed day gave him an occasion to proclaim his love for Pittsburgh -- in between the ballgame, a powerboat race and a trip to the Rivers Casino to kill time before the fireworks display.

"I live here in Pittsburgh, I have my dream house here," said Duncan, 55, of Brentwood. "If I win a million dollars, I'm still going to be ushering, keeping up my job at the post office, and doing stuff like this."

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