Upon entering the designated area on Broadway for Nashville's Fourth of July bash, people were greeted by live music billowing out of 27 bars or, if crossing via the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, a lone saxophonist.
Basically, it was downtown Nashville. But with a lot more red, white and blue.
Striking that balance between the familiar and the fantastical was the goal for "Let Freedom Sing!" as it celebrated its 38th year on Monday.
This summer promised bigger crowds and more fireworks. The estimate for the total number of attendees was 250,000 to 300,000, according to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, the event's organizer.
Early into the festivities, the hum of the crowd felt "about the same it usually is each year," said Courtney Goss, a staff member at a Nanny's Old Fashion Lemonade Stand. Goss has attended the event for at least 15 years.
Around 3 p.m. — about two hours after a heat advisory was issued for Middle Tennessee — more customers found their way to Goss' lemonade stand. As if they were stealthy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, "it was like people came out of the sewers," Goss joked.
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Less than a block away, a "hydration station" offered an additional means of cooling off. Under a large tent emitting water vapor from hoses tied to the roof, the station featured a basin with six nozzles for people to fill up water bottles.
Outside Broadway and its cacophony of sounds and smells — of sweat, alcohol and boot store leather — the "Family Fun Zone" in Walk of Fame Park was much calmer and peaceful. There, only one band entertained a crowd as other children played corn hole or bobbed around in bouncy castles.
As the sun started to set and the "Family Fun Zone" started to close, more adults flooded in for big-name concerts scheduled at the main stage.
Country musician Levi Hummon, who is from Nashville, was the first of four main acts, performing a compilation of original songs and one Jonas Brothers cover.
"Who's drinking out there tonight?" Hummon excitedly asked the crowd during his performance.
Coincidentally, one person in the audience was wearing a shirt that said, "Country music and beer: that's why I'm here."
The more Hummon played, the more the crowd grew. Goss' lemonade stand, located less than a block from the main stage, started to fill in.
By the end of the night, Goss predicted there would be even less breathing room. After Hummon, the lineup of performers included Cassadee Pope, Gramps Morgan and Old Dominion.
After growing up in Nashville and attending prior Fourth of July celebrations, Hummon told the crowd it was a real privilege to serve as this year's opener. He always wanted to be one of the music stars he saw on stage.
This year, he was that guy.
Hummon said: "I'm literally living my dream."
Reach Liam Adams at email@example.com or on Twitter @liamsadams.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville Fourth of July fireworks celebration: Big numbers, same heat