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Belhaven celebrates U.S. birthday, hometown hero

By Staff
Kirk honored as parade grand marshal
By KEVIN SCOTT CUTLER
Staff Writer
BELHAVEN — Just prior to the start of Belhaven’s July 4th parade Wednesday morning, Anthony Cutler was busy making last minute adjustments to a particularly special parade entry.
It was the float honoring Lance Cpl. Johnathan Kirk, the Belhaven resident who died May 1st at the age of 25 from wounds he received the week before while conducting combat operations in Iraq. The hometown hero was honored posthumously as the Independence Day parade’s grand marshal. The float featured several portraits of Kirk, and “Amazing Grace” was played on the bagpipes in his honor.
Joining Kirk’s family and friends on this special day were ten Marines who served with him in the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion from Camp Lejeune.
Another Marine with local ties was a special guest during the parade, dressed in his uniform and waving from the back of a convertible. Josh Raynor was in town visiting his uncle Harvey “Butch” Raynor, who served as chairman of this year’s July 4 festivities.
According to his mom, Linda, Josh Raynor returned to the United States on May 30 after completing his second tour of duty in Iraq. He is stationed at Camp Pendleton in California.
Also featured in the parade were entries from area churches and businesses, antique tractors and automobiles, personnel from local fire departments and rescue squads, elected officials and beauty queens.
Sarah Cleary, just minutes into her reign as the new Little Miss Independence, was perfecting her royal parade wave. Cleary was chosen during a pageant held on the lawn of the Wilkinson Center Tuesday morning. Joining her in the parade were first runner-up Zekiah Pugh, second runner-up Madison Medlock, talent winner Gwendalyn Lincoln, Miss Congeniality Layla Brock and fellow contestants Deja Pugh, Kaitlyn Spain, Susanna Van Gyzen, Bell Noble, Melody Smith and Jayla Palmer.
Along with the parade and Little Miss competition, Belhaven’s celebration included a street dance, arts and crafts booths, amusement rides, a dignitary breakfast, a military flyover, a lawn mower pull, a mud run, live music, fireworks and the Lucky Duck Regatta.
The event drew people by the thousands to Belhaven.
Miller said the activities are planned months in advance by a local celebration committee, and the chamber assists in a volunteer capacity.
The T-shirt sale is the chamber’s big fundraiser, Miller added, and folks who missed out can still drop by the chamber’s office to see what sizes are left. She expected to sell several hundred shirts by the end of the day.
Steven Boss of Greensboro revived a family tradition Wednesday by celebrating the nation’s birthday in Beaufort County. He estimated that it had been 10 years since he came for the festivities.