The people of Gatlinburg are so excited about the 4th of July that they don't waste a single minute to celebrate. On July 3rd, when the clock strikes midnight, Gatlinburg kicks off its Midnight Independence Day Parade. For over 30 years the Smoky Mountains have had the first 4th of July parade in the country and this year the tradition stands firm.
Around 11:00 pm on July 3rd, the streets along the parade route are closed to all vehicles in order to prepare for the magnificent show. Approximately 100,000 people are expected to be there to celebrate our nation's independence and join in the tribute to each branch of the military. They'll be enormous balloons in patriotic shapes including eagles and also red, white and blue stars. In addition, you'll see fun characters like Humpty Dumpty and Alphonso the Dragon. Because the parade is at night, all floats are lit, making them a spectacular sight. With more than 100 entries and the magical mood of the hour, Gatlinburg's parade is a great way to start the holiday off right… right from the start.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Appears at Parade
This year there will be a historical twist on the parade. In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took a ride through the Smoky Mountains to dedicate the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To mark the 75th anniversary of the park's establishment, actor David Keith (famous for his role in An Officer and a Gentlemen) will portray President Roosevelt in his motorcade at the start of the parade. The motorcade will include costumes from the 40s as well as antique cars and motorcycles from the 1920s and 1930s.
David Keith is a native of East Tennessee and a Golden Globe-nominated actor. The fact that the Smoky Mountains are his home makes David Keith the perfect selection for this honorable role.
River Raft Regatta
Midday on July 4th, all attention is turned toward the Little Pigeon River. That's the site of the annual River Raft Regatta. Sponsored by the United States Navy, this unmanned race can be entered by anyone using anything that floats except balls or plastic eggs. Some of the previous entries were made of matchsticks, floatable rocks and rubber ducks. In other words: the more creative your float, the better.
There is no charge for admission, so start thinking about what to make your raft from. Even if you don't enter, you'll want to make your way to the finish line at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies to see the winner.
Spectacular Fireworks Display
Once the day is done and the sun goes down, it's time to look toward the sky. Roughly an hour after dark, there's a spectacular display of fireworks that can be seen for miles. For a full 20 minutes, everyone around will enjoy the lights as they fill the sky reminding us of the rocket's red glare that marked the beginning of this great nation.
Independence Day is an important part of our country's history. The 4th of July events in Gatlinburg are an exciting and unique way to celebrate this monumental time. Because this is such a spectacular attraction, accommodations get booked fast. Make your plans now for a holiday the entire family will remember.
About Darryl Payne
Darryl Payne is a native of East Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. He is a web developer with a passion for building great websites. As a local, he can offer a unique perspective on where to stay and things to do while on vacation in the Smokies. To read his latest recommendations, please click the Google+ follow button.