• Video Below: Concert goers chat about the Omaha tradition.
• Interactive Photo Below: The World-Herald used Gigapan technology to create a panoramic image of Friday night's concert at Memorial Park. Check it out to see if you can find yourself or your friends at the show.
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Sizzling weather Friday night didn't stop thousands of people from camping out at Memorial Park for the annual Bank of the West free concert and fireworks show.
The kickoff to Omaha's Fourth of July weekend was marked by temperatures in the 90s for much of the evening.
Many families lugged coolers packed with bottled water and stayed put in the shade. Some teenage boys carried gallon-size milk jugs full of water. Others frequented the water station set up by the Metropolitan Utilities District.
“That has been the No. 1 question for me: Where's the water truck?” Omaha Police Capt. Scott Gray said.
Organizers said the concert and fireworks show drew an estimated 62,500 people — down from last year's record crowd of 80,000.
The concert featured headliners Cheap Trick and 38 Special, as well as Take Me to Vegas, a local alternative band.
This was the first year that the Memorial Park concert stage was along Dodge Street and facing north. In previous years the stage was on the west side of the park.
Most attendees appreciated the new setup because they didn't have to look into the sun to see the performers.
They also liked the switch because it added about three times the amount of space for people to camp out.
Even so, some early birds began arriving at 5 a.m. to stake out prime spots for the show.
Joe and Sue Cathcart of Missouri Valley, Iowa, found a parking spot early Friday afternoon. The couple, along with some friends, sat in the shade at the top of the hill near the World War II Memorial.
“It's fun to watch people having fun,” Joe Cathcart said.
Cindy and Rick Miller of Liberty, Mo., arrived just an hour before the concert began at 6 p.m., but they found a spot within 20 feet of the stage.
“We found the shade, and we are blessed,” Cindy Miller said.
Dorreen McCarty of Omaha rolled in right as Take Me to Vegas closed out its performance. She was happy because she was able to sit on the hill overlooking the stage, similar to a spot she staked out last year.
“When you get old, you don't want to walk up and down that hill,” she said.
Some younger attendees, such as 15-year-olds Nick Jordon and Keelan Dunn, said the spread-out seating area made it harder to connect with friends.
“We come every year, and I like it better the other way because it seemed like it was easier to socialize,” Nick said.
Gray said the new staging allowed police to keep a better eye on the crowd. The proximity to Dodge Street didn't appear to cause any traffic problems, he said.
Officers enforced traffic rules such as not allowing stopping, standing or dropping people off on Dodge Street.
Police reported few crowd problems, except for a couple of public intoxication arrests.
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• Interactive Photo: The World-Herald used Gigapan technology to create a 1.68 gigapixel image of Friday night's concert at Memorial Park on July 1, 2011. Because this large panoramic image is created by stitching together 174 high-resolution photos taken over a period of 20 minutes, there may be a few blurred sections where there was movement during the image capture process or where pictures were stitched together. Feel free to see if you can find yourself or your friends. Double click to zoom, or use the zoom navigation bar at left.Click here to see the widescreen version.