An early-evening downpour soaked the Compo Beach crowd, but did nothing to dampen the spirit of Westport's sky-high Independence Day celebration Wednesday.

An estimated 10,000 people turned out the evening before July 4 to barbecue, swim, share the (mostly) fine summer air and then be dazzled by the annual pyrotechnical salute to Independence Day after sunset.

"We're having a great night," said Stuart McCarthy, the town's parks and recreation director, who was the main ticket-taker at the gate.

"We sold two thousand tickets," he said. "I've heard 10,000 people by the time the night's ready to kick off."

"I think it's fantastic," said Roland Poirier of Weston, who was among the throng chowing down on everything from chicken to chow mein.

"We come every year," said Mark Tennant of Redding, who settles in the same spot on the beach each year with his family.

The clear skies turned dark about 8:15 p.m., and a sudden gathering of clouds let loose with drenching showers. Many ran for shelter in their cars, while others squeezed under the pavilions and the sea of beach umbrellas.

But the rain soon subsided, and the sky show went forward.

As dusk settled over Westport's shoreline about 9 p.m., the rockets glared red and bombs burst in air, lighting up the sky on the eve of the 237th anniversary of the nation's independence above the thunder-struck crowd of thousands.