STAFF NOTEBOOK: That moment when it all works out


There’s nothing easy about organizing an event.

Six months out, the great ideas come to you in the middle of the night. The next morning, you bounce them off a friend, and oh boy, everything just sounds exciting. Then a few months later, the idea spawned during a sleepless night starts taking shape as the reality sets in that it’s all really possible.

And finally, a few weeks away from the date certain, excitement becomes contagious among potential investors. Then just when the end is in sight, and it all looks like it’s moving effortlessly according to the insomniatic vision, panic sets in and the dreamers begin second-guessing the idea and their ability to pull it off.

I’m guessing that most event planners go through some version of this stressful scenario. But for journalists accustomed to reporting the news rather than creating it, planning a major community event like the Liberty Hill Independence Day Spectacular is just not really in our DNA. So we sat on the idea for years, waiting on someone like Katie Amsler to get excited with us and help organize something grand for our hometown.

For me, the magnitude of the accomplishment became real when I saw all the beach balls drop on top of hundreds of people July 1st from Rick Hall’s crazy homemade contraption in front of the stage where LC ROCKS rocked it to Led Zeppelin. To most, this might sound a bit corny, but for those of us who worked so hard to pull it all together it was perhaps the most memorable thing that happened that night.

Just a few weeks earlier, Katie, who sells advertising for The Independent and has slipped gracefully into the role of event planner, tossed out the idea of a beach ball drop while Rick was in the office. She had watched this happen at other major events, but couldn’t figure out how to build a structure to hold the balls.

“That’s easy, I can do it,” Rick said. “All you need is a …..” And that’s where he lost us. Confident in how to make it all work, and convinced we had a great idea, he pulled out a credit card and asked to be the sponsor.

But it didn’t stop there. The day before the ball drop, Rick and his family spent most of the day building the structure and blowing up hundreds of beach balls, carefully placing them all in soccer nets donated by the Liberty Hill Youth Soccer Association. The balls stayed in place untouched overnight, thanks to the watchful eye of Liberty Hill police patrolling City Park, and were lifted high in the air Saturday morning. The excitement built all day as passersby on CR 200 watched the nets full of color sway with the wind inviting the curious to come over and see what would happen next.

Saturday night, as the band announced the impending drop, parents lifted their children onto their shoulders and little arms went high in the air preparing to capture a ball.

Rick, who is also president of the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce, left me with the long end of the rope on the opposite side of the crowd with the last words, “I’m going to count to three, then you walk backwards and pull the rope all the way out.”

As he walked away, panic set in when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to hear over the sounds of screaming kids. Then suddenly a tall arm appeared holding up one finger, then two, then the third. I held my breath, first hoping that it was his hand I saw, then wondering how we would recover if the balls didn’t drop.

Then it just happened. Like magic, the hole appeared, the balls dropped, the kids went wild and the band played Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” (1971). No doubt, the moment didn’t mean as much to everyone else as it did to all of us, but it was the WOW moment that is already fueling new ideas for Independence Day 2018.

That moment and the entire celebration two weeks ago couldn’t have happened without the efforts of many people who shared our vision for creating something special in our hometown.

Our presenting sponsors stepped up in a big way to give something special to the community. The Independent was proud to work alongside Pastor Stephen Apt and Peace Lutheran Church, Randy Rollo and Todd McCullough of Liberty Parke subdivision, the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Liberty Hill Parks & Recreation Board to host a celebration like none other.

The additional investment of Larkspur subdivision, HEB Plus Leander and Cecil Atkission Motors of Burnet helped us pay for the hit band LC ROCKS and 10 buses that shuttled guests back and forth from the high school.

More friends and advertisers joined the partnership so that all of our attractions could be free to everyone.

In addition to Hall and US Health Advisors, those sponsors included Dahlia Cafe, Union State Bank, Widmer Construction & Development, J&Z Auto, Ski’s Plumbing, Kim Sanders and The Property Girls of Keller Williams, Cheryl Stephens of 98th Meridian Real Estate, Shelley Clawson of Mallach & Co. Real Estate, Liberty Hill Storage, John Clark of Sunup Insurance, Research Pest Control, Meritage Homes, Beck Funeral Home, Clawson Disposal, 183 Signs, and Liberty Hill Pediatrics.

Together, these friends of The Independent managed to delight thousands of people for the sole purpose of giving something back to the community where all of us are deeply rooted. Our business sponsors enjoyed being part of a new tradition in our hometown. Years from now, families will still be talking about Liberty Hill’s Independence Day tradition that was built on the fundamental notion that small towns deserve spectacular celebrations that bring neighbors and families together.

This truly is a community endeavor and we see the potential and the possibilities as it continues to grow.

Next year, look for more attractions and live music, even more food trucks and vendors, and another huge addition to the event that will be announced later.

Follow us all year long on where we will keep you posted on our middle-of-the night ideas. Share yours with us at

We invite your business to join our team in 2018, and make this part of your marketing plan.

Special thanks go to the Wilkison and Amsler families, and the entire staff of The Independent. So many others went beyond the call of duty to make the event run smoothly. Deserving special mention are Chad Pirtle of LHISD; Lt. Jeff Ringstaff of Liberty Hill Police Department; the entire City Parks Board fueled by the enthusiasm of Chair Mary Lyn Jones; and Operation Liberty Hill’s Susan Baker who never stops working to make a difference for those who need it most.
~ Shelly Wilkison