Published 7:17 am Friday, June 15, 2007

By Staff
Washington’s Fourth of July celebration used to be, well, nearly nonexistent.
The city provided a fireworks display over the Pamlico River. That was it.
Until last year, Independence Day celebrations in Washington were mostly, if not entirely, left up to individuals, families and groups of friends. Thank goodness that approach to the Fourth of July has become extinct.
In 2006, the Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association and several people put on the waterfront Fourth of July celebration. That celebration was kept small, but its organizers promised future Independence Day events would be bigger and better.
They have kept their promise.
For this Fourth of July, organizers are rolling out the star-spangled Washington’s Red, Hot and Blues Independence Day Celebration. Celebration sponsors include the City of Washington, Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association, Prudential Clear Water Realty and Washington Marine &Sporting Center.
These sponsors have come up with the Independence Day celebration that includes a raft race, boat-decorating contest, performance by a blues band, gospel concert, watermelon-eating contest, watermelon-seed spitting contest and jalapeno-eating contest.
Of course, a pyrotechnics display over the river will be a part of the celebration’s lineup.
Many people will show up for the celebration, but most of them will have no idea of the hours of planning and effort it took organizers to put on the event. The raft race, contests and entertainment didn’t just happen. While many of those who attend the celebration will spend several hours there, those who made the festivities happen spent days making the waterfront party happen.
The Fourth of July is more than just a holiday.
Independence Day must be more than just another day off from work and a day for picnics and parades. Those are fine activities, in their own right. It’s time for Washington’s Fourth of July celebration to grow into one that emphasizes freedom, patriotism and the principles on which this nation was founded.
As noted about this time last year, it is appropriate the first city named for George Washington, a person closely associated with this nation’s independence movement, celebrate Independence Day with, well, a celebration.
Organizers of Washington’s July 4 bash want people to know the city’s celebration is not competition for Belhaven’s Fourth of July celebration. Washington’s party may be small compared to Belhaven’s annual birthday bash for the nation, but it serves an alternative choice, not a competitive choice, to Belhaven’s extravaganza. It’s possible to enjoy both.
Last year, Kristi Hardison, the city’s special-events and facilities coordinator, explained why Washington’s 2006 Fourth of July celebration on the waterfront was expanded.
Hardison is right. Before last year, people showed up at the waterfront four to five hours before the fireworks show so they can claim good locations from which to view the pyrotechnics production over the Pamlico River. Some of those early birds complained there was nothing to do. Others noted there was no food nor drink available, unless those items were brought to the waterfront by themselves.
Things have changed. Boy, have they changed.