Those spending the afternoon by Watauga Lake might have caught a glimpse of a line of boats decked in red, white and blue sailing through for the lake’s annual boat parade. Some spectators hung around the Rat Branch boat ramp to watch the boats drift by on their way around the lake. Steve and Robin Emmerman just happened to catch the tail end of the parade as they were stopping by the boat ramp with some friends.
The Emmermans were on their first visit to the area from Florida and spent the day with their good friends who own a cabin in the area and taking in the sights.
“It’s breathtakingly gorgeous here,” Robin said, looking toward the mountains rising beyond the outstretched lake.
“I can’t believe how friendly people are,” Steve added.
Nearby, Elizabethton residents put on their red, white and blue best to celebrate at the Covered Bridge Park with song and dance. American flags waved about as patriotic music set the mood for the afternoon, and children jumped in bounce houses lining the closed streets.
To cap off the night for the region, the 31st annual Pepsi Independence Day Celebration drew in people from across the region for one of the biggest fireworks displays around. The celebration started at 5 p.m. with live music to carry the festivities to the grand finale fireworks display that went off just before 10 p.m.
Freedom Hall Civic Center Director Lisa Chamness said that the 31-year-old pyrotechnics display that began as a celebration for Pepsi employees now pulls in people from a four-state area to enjoy the celebration. The event, which draws thousands, is the product of work from many facets besides Pepsi and Freedom Hall, including emergency services, transportation and the Parks and Recreation Department.
This year’s entertainment featured a mix of country and bluegrass music. Brad Puckett started things off, followed by Jimbo Whaley and Greenbriar, Austin Moody and “The Voice” Season 7 winner Craig Wayne Boyd finished the evening of live music.
The festivities also included a tribute to the armed forces, which honored Vietnam veterans, fallen heroes and the recognition of military survivors accompanied by patriotic music.
And that, Chamness said, is what it’s all about.
“I think it builds a sense of community, and I also think it builds a sense of pride,” she said. “It reminds us why we’re all here.”
Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected]. Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.