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The Independence Day celebration started with a bang in Columbus.

The annual Red, White, KaBoom got things going Monday evening with a display of colorful and loud fireworks at Platte County Agricultural Park.

Hundreds of people came to watch the show put together by Stromsburg-based Midwest Pyrotechnics and organized by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

The display kicked off with a series of fireballs that drew “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd as they could literally feel the heat from the flames.

More explosions followed featuring gold, green and pink fireworks that lit up the nighttime sky. The $30,000 show was synchronized to patriotic music.

Prior to the fireworks, families enjoyed activities provided by the Columbus Family YMCA. Music lovers also got to hear a performance by Freedom Road, who took the stage to play classic tunes.

In the Ag Park parking lot, carnival rides and games from Moore’s Greater Shows were open. Many young and old thrill-seekers zipped around in fast-moving rides that spun and tilted while others enjoyed a calmer trip around the carousel and children's rides.

The Moore’s Greater Shows midway will remain open through the Platte County Fair, which begins Wednesday.

The holiday fun was both festive and messy in Platte Center.

A mud volleyball tournament opened the community’s traditional Fourth of July celebration, which began Saturday.

Three pits filled with about a foot of water served as volleyball courts in the double-elimination tournament.

Muddy water flew with every dive for those who were game enough to make a splash.

One of the participants was Craig Olsufka, who was a rookie to the tournament despite living in Platte Center for eight years.

“We've just never had been able to do it, but this year we could. We play sand volleyball on Sunday nights. We have a little league, but this was the first time for mud volleyball,” he said after using a hose to spray the muck from his body following a match.

The event attracted 27 teams comprised of six players each, many of whom came from the surrounding area.

Nicolette Dannelly of Platte Center ran in the community 5K in the morning before heading out to the ballfield where the volleyball tournament was held. The conditions were challenging, but that didn’t stop the experience from being entertaining.

“It’s hard to move. You stick into the mud. When you dive in you just slide all over the place and it is hard to get your bearings. But it’s a lot of fun,” Dannelly said.

The tournament has been an annual event in the community for years. This was the first time Kelly Arndt and her husband Justin organized it.

Entry fees are used to provide cash payouts for the winners and fund community projects.

Although walking away with money wasn’t the real draw. It’s the camaraderie the event creates.

“I think it’s just a fun day with friends, hanging out and having a good time,” Arndt said.

Other activities held in Platte Center to mark Independence Day include turtle races, a frog-jumping contest, parade, lunch sponsored by Platte Center Rescue, kiddie tractor pull and demolition derby.

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