By Kendal Groner

Unicoi County residents will not have to travel far to have a festive Independence Day as communities throughout the county have special events planned to celebrate the nation’s birthday day.

Flag Pond

The Flag Pond Ruritan Club will be hosting its annual 4th of July celebration on Saturday, June 30, beginning at 4 p.m. at the Flag Pond Community Center (Old Flag Pond School) at 110 School House Road.

“We had a good turnout last year, we always do,” said Richard Waldrop, Flag Pond Ruritan Club president. “We usually do it on Saturday before the 4th because a lot of people have to work and they don’t like to come on the 4th.”

The free event will include a parade, lawnmower races, corn hole competition, food and live music. The lineup for the parade will be at 5:30 p.m. before it begins at 6 p.m.

“It starts at the school, goes down the road and there’s a turnaround I’d say a quarter of a mile before they come back by the school,” Waldrop said. “Anybody that wants to ride, walk, run or ride a bicycle, they’re welcome to.”

Waldrop recalls around 32 participants in the parade last year, many of whom came on four-wheelers that were decorated in traditional red, white and blue.

Following the parade, the lawn mower race will take place on school grounds and those that wish to participate must sign up prior to the race and sign a waiver.

“We had 10 compete last year,” said Waldrop. “It’s just standard lawnmowers is what they use. I think we give $20 as the cash prize for the winner.”

Musical entertainment will be provided by the Spivey Mountain Boys and the Ruritan Club will have food available for sale.

“We have hamburgers and hotdogs, nachos, desserts, and drinks … all the usual,” Waldrop said. 

A fireworks show is expected to begin at approximately 9:30 p.m, with the fireworks being provided by the Ruritan Club and set off by the local fire department.

“They lasted 45 minutes to an hour last year, but it may be a little after 9:30 before we start,” Waldrop said. “We like to wait until it gets really dark. We have a good time with this event. We have it so the whole family can come and have fun.”

For more information about the event, or for directions, contact Richard Waldrop at 388-8929, or Flag Pond Ruritan Club Vice President Judee Krom at 919-428-5619.

Town of Erwin

In an effort to recognize and honor the veterans in this area on Independence Day, the Town of Erwin is hosting a Welcome Home Veterans Parade that will begin at 11 a.m. in downtown Erwin.

Town of Erwin Communications Coordinator Jamie Rice said that this July 4 will give all veterans, from World War II up to the Middle East Conflict, a chance to be honored for their service.

“This parade was really planned to honor veterans who may not have been honored when they came home initially, especially the Vietnam veterans,” Rice said. “A lot of times soldiers come home and they don’t really receive the fanfare that they should. This is our way of saying we appreciate you, you are not forgotten and we want to honor you today.”

The former Morgan Insulation Property on Second Street will be utilized as the staging area for all of the vehicles and floats. Those who are walking or riding bicycles will be meeting at the parking lot of Erwin Town Hall before the parade commences.

“We had several thousand last year,” Rice said about parade attendance. “We had four professional floats that were designated just for veterans and then we probably had another 20 convertibles with veterans in them. We had a Jeep club come and probably 50 people decorated their bicycles, scooters and red wagons for the parade.”

This year, the alumni marching band will team up with the Unicoi County High School marching band to perform in the parade. Rice said they have also invited people to bring their pets, dressed in celebratory red, white and blue if they wish, and have them walk in the parade.

A special place will be reserved in the parade for any area Medal of Honor recipients and special transportation will be provided for veterans who prefer to ride rather than walk the parade.

“They’re more than welcome to ride on any of the floats,” said Rice. “We have three floats reserved for them and we also have a float with seats if they can’t stand.”

Following the parade, the Town of Erwin will be providing refreshments, hot dogs and treats at the Unicoi County Veterans Memorial Park on South Elm Street.

“We will have a shuttle for veterans to get them back from the park to the starting point of the parade,” said Rice. “There will be lots convertibles available to carry veterans as well.”

On the football field, a kids area will be set up with water inflatable slides to give children a fun opportunity to cool off after walking in the parade.

“Northridge Community Church has generously sponsored that kids area and they will be providing popsicles, water balloons and lots of fun ways to cool off up there,” Rice said.

For more information about the parade, contact Jamie Rice at 220-7624.

Town of Unicoi

The annual Freedom Fest hosted by the Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch will continue for its 16th year.

On July 4 beginning at 5 p.m., event attendees and organizers will gather at Unicoi Elementary School, 404 Massachusetts Ave., for Independence Day festivities.

“It actually started in the backyard of Mark Ramsey (former Town of Unicoi Alderman),” said Tina Wilcox, Town of Unicoi office manager. “When they outgrew his house, they moved it to (Unicoi United) Methodist Church before moving it to the elementary school.”

Once the ceremony begins, there will be a presentation of colors, followed by the National Anthem performed by Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch and an invocation from Eddie Blazer, pastor of the Unicoi Church of God.

“We grow and grow each year,” Wilcox said of the event. “Ours is always on the 4th no matter which day it falls on.”

Although Wilcox said the event incurs a great deal of publicity just through word of mouth, this year the town has put up a large highway banner inside the town to advertise, in addition to four electronic billboard signs in Johnson City.

“People come even from North Carolina,” said Wilcox. “We hear that they run across us a couple of times and now it’s becoming a family tradition because they enjoy it so much.”

Starting at 5:15 p.m., musical entertainment will begin starting with Brimleaf & Sonarflare, followed by Broadstreet Station at 6:45 p.m., and then Carson Peters & Iron Mountain at 8:15 p.m.

The musical performers are described as playing a variety of genres ranging from bluegrass to country to rock. Once night falls, the fireworks show will begin. The fireworks will be set off by Danny Coffie and Tony Street.

“It usually lasts a good 15 to 30 minutes,” Wilcox said. “Every year we try to add more and more popular and new fireworks.”

Concessions provided by the Unicoi Ruritan Club, such as hamburgers, hotdogs and funnel cakes, will be available for purchase.

“The gathering of the people is my favorite part about this event each year,” Wilcox said. “Everyone gets together and brings their own chairs, blankets and coolers to hang out. People share old history and jokes; it’s a great community gathering, almost like a block party before the fireworks.”