By REGGIE ROSS
The 25th Annual Thunder on Water Safe Boating Festival is in the books, and the common theme for the weekend was the heat.
“‘Whew,’ is the best way to describe it,” said TOW Chairman Wanda Roche. “It’s Mississippi in June, and that’s what we experienced over the weekend.”
With temperatures in the mid-90s on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, folks flocked out to the lake and battled the heat. Emergency crews with the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Legacy Hospice were at the carnival’s entrance for assurance of medical care.
“It was hot, but we were prepared for those types of emergencies,” Roche said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts a traffic count on meters placed at both the north and south abutments, and they noted 117,116 people at the lake this weekend.
According to Roche, ticket prices at the carnival showed a significant improvement from each day.
“The carnival numbers showed an increase every night,” Roche said. “Friday and Saturday nights, there were 100,000 people at the lake — easy.”
Friday night, Grenada Lake was swarmed with visitors, most of them on hand to witness the 18-minute fireworks show.
Roche said Friday night was by far the biggest and busiest with thousands of people attending the carnival and to see the display.
“When you get this many people in one place, I’d say it was a pretty good weekend,” Roche said.
Spectators had to slightly adjust their viewing for parts of the fireworks show. Roche said the pyrotechnics operators moved the fireworks farther west of the beach, which caused viewing problems for people closest to the fireworks show.
“With the new campground near the beach, the Corps wanted the fireworks to be moved farther from that area,” Roche said. “When that happened the trees blocked some of the fireworks. We’re looking at going back to our old location next year.”
On Saturday, some of the morning and afternoon events saw record number of participants.
The kids’ fishing rodeo attracted 350 children Saturday morning, and the barbecue contest had 20 competitors vying for the grilling championship.
“The barbecue contest was huge,” Roche said. “This is the largest it’s ever been, and the Memphis Barbecue Network people were thrilled about it.”
Duan Willis, who served as this year’s chairman of the contest, said it was better than he ever expected.
“We had some of Grenada’s best barbecue guys out there this year, and I’m looking forward to next year,” Willis said. “We had a great time.”