Continuing the tradition

Published 6:51 pm Saturday, July 4, 2009

On one side of the road, families sat on picnic blankets decked out in their best red, white and blue garb.

On the other side, more neighbors, friends and Crittenden residents sat on the curb, waving their American flags and calling out to their counterparts across the street.

“Where is your mama?” an elderly woman called out to a teenager on the other side, who yelled back, “In the parade” while pointing down to a golf cart decked out with red and blue streamers.

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From the morning parade on Eclipse Drive to the afternoon raft race on Chuckatuck Creek and through the night’s concert and fireworks display, more than 5,000 people came through the Crittenden, Eclipse and Hobson community Saturday to take part in the annual Fourth of July celebrations.

Yet even with such a grand number of people stopping in, that community spirit – where everyone knows your name and probably your mama’s name – was felt throughout the day.

For example, parents and grandparents biked through the morning parade with their children, throwing candy out to friends in the street. Men driving their golf carts in the parade took small breaks to fill up their water guns and shoot water at the neighborhood children clamoring to get as much candy from the street as possible.

That community spirit is the exact reason organizers say the Fourth of July celebration is so important to the North Suffolk community.

“First of all, it’s July the Fourth and we’re celebrating freedom and the opportunity to be together in a comfortable environment with our loved ones,” said Bob Earl, organizer of the day’s events. “This event brings family back together from all over the country.”

Earl said he met one woman who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and who comes to Crittenden every year to celebrate the Fourth. He said there is another man he met who lives in Portsmouth, and for the past seven years has come to Crittenden for Independence Day as well.

“He said to me don’t change a thing because the way we do it is so meaningful for people,” Earl said. “It’s just all kinds of emotions here. It forces us to think about our heritage. It’s a lot of fun.”

It is a lot of fun that takes a lot of work. Earl said it takes more than 60 volunteers to make all of the day’s celebration to come together.

“They always come out of the woodwork and chip in and get the job done,” Earl said.

Carl LeMon, pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church, said helping to host an event like this in the community speaks to the heart of the church’s mission.

“This is a tremendous way for us to flesh out what we believe in being an open congregation – as we say, having open hearts, open minds, open doors,” LeMon said. “This is what we’re about. We’re about creating an opportunity for the community to come in, and hopefully for us to show hospitality to the community.”

Ebenezer has been helping to host the Fourth of July celebration since the C.E.&H. Ruritan Club’s bicentennial celebration in 1976. In need of more space, the club asked if they could use some of the church’s grounds. The partnership has continued through today where the Ruritan club provides the parade, fireworks and raft race for the day, and the church provides the music, opening ceremonies, children’s games and concessions.

LeMon said part of what makes the celebration work each year is the dedicated group of volunteers in the community, and specifically at Ebenezer.

“I’ve never been in a church where there is such a large core of people that is turned on to serving other people,” LeMon said. “It’s incredible.”