During Friday's Independence Day Celebration, Jeff Kirk holds his dog, Baxter, who dressed for the occasion, to the delight of 7-year-old Allysen Ward. (Photos by Max Hrenda/Johnson City Press)
While many who attended Johnson City’s annual July 4 festival may have been overwhelmed by feelings of patriotism, others were overwhelmed by having an opportunity to spend an evening enjoying one of the city’s signature events with their loved ones.
On Friday, thousands flocked to the fields around Freedom Hall Civic Center to take in the tastes, sights and sounds of the 29th annual Independence Day Celebration.
The event, presented by the city of Johnson City and Pepsi-Beverages Company of Johnson City, provided everyone in attendance with an array of activities that could be enjoyed by the whole family, including inflatables, games, and food and gift vendors.
One of the primary sources of entertainment came from the main stage, which was set up in the field adjacent to the Civic Center and featured country music and bluegrass performances from local acts like The Twang Bangers and Brinley Addington, along with other Tennessee-based performers like Jimbo Whaley and Greenbrier and headliner Jon Pardi. After the music, however, the main event occurred with a bang as, at around 10 p.m., the annual fireworks show made its mark across the Johnson City skyline.
Though the festival offered an abundance of activities, many in attendance were happy to have a chance to wish the U.S. a happy 238th birthday with those closest to them. Johnson City resident Allen Fisher, who attended the event with his son, daughter, future daughter-in-law, her mother and his grandchildren, said he was happy the festival offered something for every member of his family to enjoy.
“We’ve got the music (and) we’re getting something to eat,” he said. “Our young children are out there playing in all the floats and jumping-things. Everything is fine and we’re having a real good time here tonight.”
Others at the festival relished in the presence of not just their family, but also their friends and extended family as well. James Russell and his daughter, Grace, attended the event with their church congregation from the Pentecostals of Johnson City.
“Almost everybody I know (is here) and I’ve got my church over there,” Russell said. “This, for me, is a church function, and to get to be with my church family is awesome.”
Having that many more people, Russell said, made the event that much more enjoyable.
“There’s more people, more family, and it’s wonderful,” he said.
Though Russell enjoyed being with his extended family and his children, others, like Amanda Roberts of Carter County, were attending the event for the first time with children.
“I figured the kids would like this a lot,” she said.
Despite her altruistic intention, however, after a while, the children began to take their toll on her stamina.
“They were, but I went to sit down in the shade,” she said, with a laugh. “But it’s fun; they like to do a lot of stuff. I guess I’m going to take them to jump on those bouncy things in a minute.”
While Roberts was spending her first July 4 with children, others, like Roberta Graves, were attending one of many. In years past, Graves said, she would bring her children — who have since grown up — to enjoy the festival and fireworks.
“It’s a great event,” she said. “I’d recommend it to anybody.”
This year, however, while attending the festival with her 2-year-old granddaughter, Madison Roberts, Graves said the celebration meant even more to her now.
“It’s more special (now),” Graves said. “It really is.”
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