PROVO — All 50,000 people in BYU's LaVell Edwards Stadium fell silent and many eyes filled with tears as a 13-year-old American flag about half the size of the football field was brought in by more than a dozen men in uniform and retired with a blaze in the middle of the field.
This was the culmination of Stadium of Fire, an annual event presented by America's Freedom Festival in Provo.
"If our American flag could speak, oh, the stories she would tell," said Glenn Beck, the host and nationally renowned political commentator. "She is what we make of her and nothing more."
As the show kicked off Saturday, a video of the making of a flyover scrolled over every screen in the stadium. The pilot of one of the four F-16s took over the video feed and the crowd looked to the skies as the planes passed by a couple hundred feet above.
Then eyes went to the southeast corner of the field as Beck led the American Fork marching band onto the stage wearing colonial attire and singing "76 Trombones."
"It's great to be here tonight," Beck said. "There's nothing like Utah on the Fourth of July."
With that, 500 dancers ran onto the field dressed in what looked like blue wings, dancing to "I'm Alive."
Groups representing the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II appeared dressed in their respective era's clothing. Then came a banner with July 4, 2009, written on it.
"Now it is we the people who must rise again," Beck said into the mike. An American flag about the size of half the football field rose and so did the crowd to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
SHeDAISY then took to the far stage, welcoming the crowd to the "biggest, baddest Fourth of July celebration ever."
Before the sisters sang "Come Home Soon," one of the singer's voices quivered with emotion as she spoke of those serving in Iraq. Stadium of Fire was broadcast to more than a thousand military troops around the world.
The sisters said they were happy to be back in Utah, their home state, for the Independence Day celebration.
Memorable moments from the past then went across the screens.
Moments later, the stadium truly became the stadium of "fire" as a fire show erupted, complete with columns of flames and dancers twirling fiery batons and hoops.
Screams then erupted from around the stadium and cameras flashed as the Jonas Brothers began their 55-minute show with "Paranoid."
Some of those screaming the loudest were 13-year-olds from Grand Junction, Colo., clad in their own homemade Jonas Brothers T-shirts. One of them, Emma Taets, got a ticket on the field for her birthday in June. She said she likes their music because she can relate to their songs.
"We are going through the same stuff," Taets said. Her friend Savannah Ashmore said she screamed when she found out she had a ticket to the show.
"They're hot and they're pure," Ashmore said of the singers.
Other Jonas fans were a little older. Roy Simmons, 42, was wearing a shirt he made himself. The shirt read, "I go to Jonas Brothers' concerts cuz that's how I roll." He and his two teenage daughters have already been to one of the brothers' shows and plan to go to another.
Other fans, like the Elliot family from Boise, came to the stadium for the fireworks that lit up the sky and ended the night with a bang.
"I just like the colors and the boom," Dillon Elliot, 11, said.
Earlier in the day, about a quarter of a million people lined the streets from Provo High School on University Avenue to the corner of 900 East and Center Street, all awaiting the Grand Parade that started at 9 a.m. Saturday.79 comments on this story
Some had been there for several hours and even camped out in front of Provo City Library at Academy Square the night before.
As the parade started with the color guard passing by, people stood to honor the American flag, putting their hands over their hearts.
They sat back down on chairs, blankets and even air mattresses as floats from various cities, companies, organizations and schools glided down the streets filled with spectators sometimes 20 people deep.