Rio Rancho Police Department Deputy Chief Andrew Rodriguez hands out mini-flags during last Sunday’s Independence Day celebration at the new Campus Park. Gary Herron photo.

The city’s new Campus Park didn’t actually open with a bang last Sunday evening, but it concluded its first outdoor concert there with a plethora of bangs.

Fireworks light up the sky, concluding the City of Rio Rancho July 4 festivities. Gary Herron photo.

Of course, fireworks are a mainstay for City of Rio Rancho Independence Day celebrations, and with the response to this year’s Fourth of July celebration at the city’s new and fashionable Campus Park, much more is on the way to the City Center venue.
The celebration began with a Sky Room concert by the 44th Army Band, followed by an hour-long performance by the New Mexico Philharmonic, and ended with a fiery celebration in the sky above.
Directed by Maj. Silas Huff, these “citizen-soldiers” delighted the crowd of close to 1,500 as they put the wraps on a nine-day tour, playing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and some patriotic tunes, as well as toe-tappers like “76 Trombones,” a handful of salsa selections and a short western medley, with the themes from movies “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “The Magnificent Seven.”
The 44th Army Band also reduced itself to a handful of members who called themselves “Green Chile Rock,” featuring vocalist Sgt. Vivian Chavez, knocking out “It’s Hip to be Square,” “Why Do You Lie?” and “Burnin’ Love.”
Following the official dedication of Campus Park and the requisite ribbon-cutting by city, county and state officials, plus a few members of the city’s parks commission, Mayor Gregg Hull read the Independence Day proclamation and introduced the New Mexico Philharmonic.
The crowd was lucky, in that the threat of rain from the ominous clouds floating in from the north didn’t materialize.
Opening, as had the army band, with the national anthem, the Philharmonic — led by maestro Roberto Minczuk, performed the classic “Pomp and Circumstance” and familiar “oldies” by the likes of Beethoven, Bach, Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Aaron Copland.
Before it was over, paving the way for the fireworks display, the orchestra played John Williams’ popular theme from “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” before concluding with John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” march.
Then, it was time for the fireworks, with a crowd estimated as large as 5,000 scattered around the park for that.

People packed Campus Park and applauded enthusiastically after each number the New Mexico Philharmonic performed Sunday evening. Gary Herron photo.