For anyone born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, the mere mention of Fall River Celebrates America stirs fond memories and nostalgia.

The iconic festival, which took place during the 1980s and '90s, was for many the highlight of summer, transforming Heritage State Park into a bustling reunion of joy, laughter and music. Held over a weekend in August, the event drew thousands of people from nearby and out of state.

FRCA had something for everyone.

Whether you were spending quality time with family or being dropped off to have a fun night with friends, the event catered to all ages and interests. The centerpiece for many was the large carnival that set up camp in the park. For kids, the carnival was pure magic. The scarier the ride, the more thrilling the experience, and this was before anyone seemed worried about the potential dangers of carnival rides. If you dared to take a spin on the Zipper, you were considered among the bravest souls in Fall River. Who could resist the enticing carnival games? Hours could be spent trying to win that big stuffed animal, each game promising the next big win.

Of course, the carnival wasn't just about the rides and games. It was also a feast with an array of traditional carnival goodies. Candy apples with their glossy, sweet coating, freshly spun cotton candy served on a paper stick (not the pre-packaged kind you find today), and the best popcorn you'd ever tasted. It just hit different coming from FRCA.

For those whose idea of fun didn't involve carnival thrills, the festival offered plenty of other entertainment. Families could bring a blanket and relax on the grass, enjoying live music or watching a magic show under the open sky. The USS Massachusetts, permanently docked at Battleship Cove, was open for tours, offering a fascinating glimpse into naval history. Alternatively, you could hop on the Bay Queen for a leisurely cruise around Mount Hope Bay.

A major highlight of the festival was the grand parade that marched down South Main Street. It featured everything from elaborate floats tossing candy to eager children, to clowns and marching bands filling the streets with music and color. The excitement and energy of the parade were infectious, drawing cheers and smiles from everyone in attendance.

As the day turned to night, anticipation built for the festival's grand finale: the fireworks display. Rivaling even the Fourth of July celebrations, the fireworks at Fall River Celebrates America were nothing short of spectacular. The night sky would come alive with brilliant colors and dazzling patterns, leaving the crowd in awe and wrapping up the weekend on a high note.

Though the festival continued into the early 2000s, it ultimately ended its 24-year run in 2009. The conclusion of this beloved festival marked the end of an incredible era for Fall River. Yet, the memories live on in the hearts of those who experienced it.

Perhaps, one day, the powers that be will surprise us with the return of FRCA., but until then, we hold onto the cherished memories and a time when the city was unified by popcorn, thrill rides and fireworks.

Ah, the good old days.

Kelly Pavao contributed to this report.

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