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Rhythm and Booms 2011

Fireworks fill the sky during Rhythm and Booms at Warner Park on Saturday night.

Madison’s main Fourth of July celebration brought an estimated 235,000 people to Warner Park Saturday evening for another year of spectacular fireworks and other sights, including a U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team shooting showers of sparks as they plummeted to earth.

While the light show was the climax, Rhythm and Booms has become a daylong destination for many, with rides, food and — new this year — a run/walk to raise money to help ensure the show keeps coming back.

Morgan Moran of Elmhurst, Ill., woozily stepping off the Tilt-A-Whirl with his two children, dubbed it the best Tilt-A-Whirl ride ever. He figured the ride was extra long because they were the only customers right then.

Carnival rides and a midway opened at 10 a.m. A music stage, children’s play area and bingo tent were among other activities unfolding over the course of the day.

The first event, however, was the Run to the Rhythm 5K at 9 a.m.

The event was started this year as part of an effort to raise money for the Madison Fireworks Fund, which puts on Rhythm and Booms. The fund is running a deficit because of bad weather and delayed fireworks shows over the past several years, according to organizers.

About 500 people registered for the 5K run, and 393 runners completed the course, said race director Jerry Kempfer. Another 100 or so people did the 2 mile walk.

Kempfer said the 5K race’s connection to the well-known Rhythm and Booms gave it a marketing advantage few new races enjoy.

Participants came from 27 states and at least one other country. A man from the Czech Republic told Kempfer he flew in just for the race.

The male winner was Gabe Heck of Madison in 15:51. The female winner was Julie Eckerly of Madison in 19:31.

Marge Greenheck, 78, of DeForest arrived at Warner Park at 10:15 a.m. with her daughter and five grandchildren and staked out one of the prime viewing spots for the fireworks.

She’s been doing this annually for about 20 years and has it down. The family’s many provisions included a lantern to get to the portable toilets later that night.

They were planning to eat and play games all day.

“We won’t get out of here until after midnight, but we don’t mind,” Greenheck said. “It’s perfect family time.”

No “serious” safety problems were reported at Rhythm and Booms, according to Madison police.

There were several fights and minor disturbances, police said, and those events resulted in six arrests for disorderly conduct and battery. Also, one person was arrested for driving while drunk, and there were three people taken to drug detoxification centers.

The grounds were partly cleaned out after midnight, and city workers arrived at 7:30 a.m. Sunday to wrap up fences.

George Hesselberg of the State Journal contributed to this report.

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