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From the Publisher's Desk – My weekend was colorful blast (July 8, 2015 issue)

Main Avenue in Erwin was lined, as young and old alike waved American flags with pride while the Second Annual Veterans Fourth of July Parade came into sight Saturday. Other than the occasional sound of a police car or the Erwin Fire Department truck, there was silence. I watched from the car as a fine mist of rain came down. A young boy rain over and handed me a small American flag with a big smile on his face.
A noteworthy group of former troops rode in cars, floats, on motorcycle and other means of transportation, while waving a hand or a flag. George Hatcher of the “Erwin Nine,” was the parade marshal. I sat there with a sense of pride, admiration and respect for those passing in front of me. Many looked aged and worn but with a smile for the respect and cheers they were receiving for their job well done.
All of a sudden, I was touched and saddened. I imagined all they had seen and all they had gone through so that we could have the freedom we do today. What a price they were called to pay and what they continue to deal with and pay even today. It takes a great man to fight for what he believes in and give all for the rest of us to have the freedom we do and the security we do.
As I watched them pass by, there was no band with patriotic fanfare, only silence underneath the overcast sky and mist of rain. I felt bad for them. I wanted there to be sunshine and pomp and circumstance. Yet, I thought about the conditions those heroes had been in and that some had fought in. Those conditions were not rosy with bright skies and happy tunes. I gained an even greater respect for the freedom I have and those who paid the price for it.
The parade soon passed on enroute to the Veterans Memorial Park and a hotdog celebration. Of all the celebrations that would go on during that Saturday Fourth, this by far would make the greatest impression on my mind.
I was grateful that the former soldiers had a smoother path to travel, thanks to the downtown revitalization project. It is so nice to have Main Avenue open once again. I look forward to seeing the plantings take place with trees and greenery in the bare spaces left along the drive. To me, the curve at Main and Love is so much clearer. My car was hit several years ago by an out-of-county driver who wasn’t expecting me to have the right of way around that corner from Main to Love. Usually a main street just continues with the flow. Now, the extended “Stop” sign and the stripe on the street, make a clear distinction of who has the right of way..
Later in the day, I proceeded out to Unicoi for the Freedom Fest celebration. I was so impressed. How amazing it is that we can go somewhere local and have free entertainment by some amazing performers, food opportunities that will benefit the community by way of the Unicoi Ruritans and to see a fantastic fireworks show.
Three groups performed, with the last one taking it right up to fireworks time.
The fireworks must have gone on for about 30 minutes with spectacular arrays of color and patterns that lit up the night sky. Upbeat, fun and patriotic themed music was playing in the background. A large crowd was on hand filling the grounds around Unicoi Elementary. As the skies would light up, the crowds would ooh and ahh in unison. The night sky was like a huge big screen with vivid color.
I drove away feeling energized, uplifted and proud to be an American and proud to be from a county that strongly supported the rights we hold and the freedom to celebrate them. Just the night before, Flag Pond held their version of festivities with a lawnmower race and other fun events, followed by fireworks. All areas of our county showed gratitude and gave the citizens ample chance to partake in the festivities to celebrate our freedom.
Many spent the day with family and friends on Saturday. Some were on the lake or visiting family. I remember in times past when I would join my dear friend Michael Tilson and his family at Rock Creek Park for burgers and fun. Times change and family members pass, but our freedoms still hold true. The Fourth is just a chance to remember what we celebrate all year long as Americans.
I found some additional freedom Saturday…freedom from dust. I spent many hours of the day cleaning my kitchen. I pulled out the refrigerator and found what must have been partial remains of a dead body. Behind the stove was the other half. I washed down cabinets, baseboards, cleaned out the pantry, cleaned out the refrigerator and mopped the floor. I felt like I was in battle and finally overcame the enemy. However, I know the enemy will be back and all will be to tackle again, just like the yard and those happy weeds in my shrubbery beds.
But, I am grateful to own a home, live in a wonderful community, vote, express myself in this column and print the news in this publication. Whatever you are battling in life, look at the freedoms you have and be thankful and realize that not everyone has that pleasure. We are blessed and we owe much thanks to those who have fought, stood up or represented us to attain it.