OAKBORO — For the 61st year, the Town of Oakboro in Stanly County celebrated Independence Day with a downtown celebration. The yearly tradition is put on by the local fire department and boasts large crowds due to an abundance of free, family-friendly attractions.
Shea Morton, the assistant fire chief and chairman of the Fourth of July Celebration Committee for the Oakboro Fire Department, told Stanly County Journal the five-day celebration concluded on July 4 with a full day of events.
The day kicked off with the annual parade through downtown at 9 a.m. This year, the Miss Stanly Fire Queen and Little Miss participants rode by, waving to the crowds. There were also classic cars, fire trucks, police vehicles and people representing a number of civic organizations and groups.
Morton said a lot of the people in attendance were from out of state. “I know we’ve had people from as far away as Florida traveling up for the parade.”
According to Morton, the N.C. Highway Patrol estimated the crowds about 10 years earlier to be around 30,000, and while it’s difficult to estimate by sight, he thinks the crowds this year were at least on par with that, if not slightly more.
Starting at 11 a.m., after a brief word from the mayor and a singing of the national anthem, the carnival began at the Midway. This year, ride enthusiasts were happy to see a new ride, the Orbit, as well as the return of the Ferris wheel. The carnival closed briefly between 2 and 5 p.m. then remained open into the night.
For musical entertainment, the eight-person, Charlotte-area group The Tonez performed on the Union Power Stage. The band, which began their free concert at 8:30 p.m., describes themselves as a mix of “Oldies, Motown, Rock & Roll, Country, Funk, R&B, and Beach music” with seven vocalists and a powerful horn section. Many attendees danced and sang along while others enjoyed the show from their lawn chairs.
After the conclusion of the music, a raffle was held at 10:30 p.m. and a woman from Concord won the grand prize of $1,000 cash.
Despite some yearly complaints that the fireworks occur at the end of the long day, usually between 11 p.m. and midnight, Morton said it’s a tradition that is unlikely to change. “If it’s going to rain, we may have to shoot them early. But if we don’t have to, we’ll wait until the normal time, 11:15 or 11:30, because that’s how we’ve always ended the five- to six–day celebration.”
He said the people at the fire department who put on the celebration have jobs and have to wake up early too, but they make do. Morton got home at around 3 a.m. and got up at 5:30 a.m. to get to work.
And the work never stops on planning the next Fourth of July event. Morton and the planning committee already started discussing the 2020 celebration. It is the main fundraiser for the Oakboro Fire Department, with the rides, food and raffle tickets helping to support the vital function they perform for the area.
“It was a good year,” Morton said. “A lot of people in the community look forward to the Fourth of July Celebration every year. Where else can you go where you can sit down and get a free concert every night and not be charged a dime?”
The 2020 celebration will run from June 30 to July 4, ending, weather permitting, with the annual fireworks display.