Even though the July 4th holiday falls in the middle of the week this year, it’s not deterring event planners hoping to throw a celebration Wednesday to outpace any that have come before.
The Cullman County parks department decided its annual Smith Lake July 4th Festival was just too big to cram into one day, so they’re giving it an early start tonight.
An admission-free music show begins at the park tonight, with Birmingham-based performer Derek Sellers kicking off a two-act set that starts at 5 p.m.
Gates open on the Fourth at 7 a.m. An admission fee of $5 per person will give visitors all-day park access, including regular park amenities. In addition, there’ll be more live music beginning at 5 p.m., crafts and vendors, a shaded dining tent and, of course, nearly half an hour of fireworks, which starts at 9 p.m.
With a bigger pyrotechnics show scheduled this year, and an anticipated crowd of thousands, both in the park and on the water, organizers are approaching the event in a more coordinated way than in years past.
“This is the first year that we’ve held a series of coordinated pre-planning sessions for the Fourth of July Festival that brings together the rescue squad; the sheriff’s office; the dive team; the coast guard and volunteer fire to figure out how we can best allocate our limited resources to make sure that people stay safe and have a good time,” said Cullman Emergency Management Agency director Phyllis Little.
Parks manager Delitha Marchman, who’s overseeing the Smith Lake celebration for the first time, said calling upon Little to help plan crowd and safety strategies was a no-brainer.
“Oh, I needed the help, and everybody’s been really patient as we’ve gotten closer and closer to the day,” said Marchman. “Phyllis especially has been a big help. I think it’s going to be a great day where everybody can just relax and focus on having a good time. We’ll have folks on our end standing ready to assist if anyone does need it, and that’s what this planning process has really been all about.”
Marchman said the increasing popularity of the Smith Lake celebration already has her aiming high for 2013.
“I’m already looking into some really nice possibilities for next year,” she said. “I’m looking into bringing in David Allan Coe, or Confederate Railroad — music with someone the folks who come to the festival here would really enjoy.”
To start the celebration early, the Cullman Public Library will offer a patriotic presentation celebrating Independence Day at 10 a.m. today.
“General Morgan” (Bob Anderson of Hartselle) and his wife will presenta reading of the Declaration of Independence. State Rep. Jeremy Oden and other area officials will also be on hand to celebrate the event.
* Benjamin Bullard may be contacted 256-734-2131, ext. 270, or firstname.lastname@example.org.