Suffolk celebrates the FourthPublished 9:02pm Friday, July 5, 2013
Counting the various forms of the Stars and Stripes around Suffolk on Independence Day would have been a fool’s errand.
Thousands of citizens came together to celebrate the nation’s birthday, and hats, sunglasses, shirts, dog bandannas and parade floats — to name just a few — were all emblazoned with the red, white and blue.
In separate celebrations that served the northern part of the city and the downtown area and its surrounding communities, celebrants enjoyed all the traditional splendor of a Fourth of July in Suffolk.
Command Master Chief Larry H. Dean of the USS Cole, who was the guest speaker at the celebration in Eclipse on Thursday, said many Americans practice patriotism every day, not just those serving in the military.
“I think there’s a lot of focus on our active-duty folks,” Dean said during the opening ceremony at the Family Life Center at Ebenezer United Methodist Church.
“However, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, tying a ribbon around a tree, those are very simple things that make you just as much a patriot as me.”
Councilman Mike Duman spoke at the event and rode in the parade before heading to meet with family on the Outer Banks.
The councilman had spent some time researching how the 13 colonies shed the yoke of Great Britain and formed the United States of America in 1776, and he shared his findings.
“I believe we refer to Independence Day as July Fourth because it’s a very specific time in history,” he said.
Thomas Jefferson was only 33 when he drafted the Declaration of Independence, Duman recalled, and 56 individuals signed it.
“God is mentioned or referred to four times in three capacities: legislator, creator and guardian,” he said.
The parade in Eclipse featured a host of classic cars, motorcycles, children on bicycles, golf carts and other buggies, as well as various floats from which candy was flung onto the streets.
One face in the crowd, Michelle Grubbs, said she and her family heard about the vibrancy of the Eclipse parade through their church, and decided to attend for the first time — though they had been for the fireworks previously.
“I think the Fourth of July means more to me now, because my husband is in the Navy,” she said.
For Debbie W. Chappell, who watched as her grandchildren searched for candy, Independence Day is about honoring American ideals and those who have struggled for them.
“I have the liberty and the freedom that my forefathers fought and bled for,” she said. “We can’t do enough for our veterans. From the oldest to the youngest, I just wish I could thank every one of them for what they have done for our country, in keeping it free and proud.”
As always, the traditional raft race on Chuckatuck Creek injected an element of whimsical fun into the day.
Judy and Tim Holloman were perched in camping chairs atop a pickup truck. “My family helped start this little village, and I have been coming (to the raft race) for years,” Judy Holloman said.
“There is one (raft) that sinks every year — at least one. We stand and watch to see which are going to make it back.”
As the afternoon’s events were winding down in Eclipse, the downtown celebration was just getting started, with the band Hotcakes taking the stage at Constant’s Wharf Park & Marina while people filled the park to wait for the fireworks.
A bounce house and kids’ games occupied one corner of the park, and families spread blankets around the grounds of the park, located behind the Hilton Garden Inn, while they waited for night to fall.
Sidewalks and streets throughout the downtown area were jammed with pedestrians and cars looking for parking spots.
The evening concluded with fireworks displays above the Nansemond River for the downtown-area revelers and above Chuckatuck Creek for those in the Eclipse area.