Locals sit and listen to live entertainment before the fireworks show at Freedom Hall Civic Center. (Jennifer Sprouse/Johnson City Press)
When it came to setting up camp to watch the annual fireworks show, the folks at Freedom Hall Civic Center Thursday evening seemed to be old pros.
Making their way down to the grassy area just before 5 p.m. for the 28th Annual Pepsi Independence Day Fireworks Celebration, locals carried a variety of items with them, such as canopy tents, coolers, umbrellas, lawn chairs and large blankets.
Hannah Stephens, her mother and cousin, as well as her friend Kaylie Foster, were situated on the side of a slight embankment near the Freedom Hall pool parking, a spot where the group of women said they always sit to watch the fireworks.
Stephens said she’s been coming to the annual fireworks as long as she can remember.
“We’ve ... come down here ever since I was a baby. I love celebrating with my family and everyone else, because it’s just really enjoyable,” she said.
Stephens said her favorite part of the whole event would be watching the fireworks.
“I like the finale because ... they have all the fireworks going off at one time. It’s great,” she said.
Foster said she’s been coming to the fireworks show for at least five years and said the atmosphere at Freedom Hall is fun to be a part of.
“It’s just a great environment. It’s fun to watch when everybody gets around. (It’s) a good place to hang out,” she said.
Down in the lower fields were various sponsor and vendor tables, as well as large inflatables for kids to play on to kill time before the big show.
For those who didn’t come to Freedom Hall with things to munch on, the food court area had multiple food options ranging from pizza, barbecue, kettle corn, funnel cakes and Italian ices.
Michael Humphreys, of Johnson City, was walking through the food court area with red, white and blue paint on his head, including stick-on stars.
Humphreys said he had already been celebrating earlier that day at the Fourth of July Parade in downtown Elizabethton at 1 p.m., where he said he won the event’s hot dog eating contest.
“I ate like 19 hot dogs in 12 minutes,” he said.
Humphreys said he and his family were there like everyone else to see the fireworks show.
“It’s family-oriented and I love the fireworks,” he said.
As for painting his head in the holiday colors, he said “from now on it’s going to be my tradition every year.”
J.R. Hambrick and his wife, Carolyn, were relaxing in their lawn chairs as Brinley Addington and his band were rocking out on the entertainment stage.
Hambrick said they were at the event with his grandchildren.
“It’s just for the kids. They love it,” he said. “We just come out here and spend the day.”
Hambrick said he was excited to see some bigger acts performing at the fireworks show this year, which included the band Confederate Railroad.
He said his favorite part of the fireworks show is “about five minutes to 10 when everybody’s getting ready for them to go off. Everybody gets excited about it.”
Having been to fireworks shows at Freedom Hall before, Hambrick said it’s always an enjoyable time.
“It’s fun with the family around, relaxing. It’s just fun,” he said.
Fireworks, put on by Pyro Shows from Lafallotte, started Thursday at 10:01 p.m. and lasted about 20 minutes.
Other entertainment Thursday included Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier, as well as a special tribute to armed forces, including color guards and patriotic songs by New Victory Quartet and Haley Lingerfelt.
The Watauga Lake 4th of July Boat Parade was also held Thursday afternoon, as boats from Cove Ridge, Fish Springs, Lakeshore, Mallard Cove, Pioneer Landing and Tilawa marinas were decked out in red, white and blue decorations.
First Friday activities in downtown Johnson City will continue celebrating Independence Day tonight with the theme of “Paint the Town Red, White and Blue.” The monthly event will feature a variety of kids activities, as well as free, live music from Bristol band Annabelle’s Curse at 7.
Jonesborough Days kicks off today, which will include musical entertainment, storytelling and various kids activities.
The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre will also be performing its annual 1940s USO Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the show cost $14 for general admission and $12 for students and seniors.