North Suffolk celebrates freedom

Published 9:16 pm Monday, July 4, 2011

Anna Paisley Gray, 9, center, rode her bike while towing her 5-year-old sister Phoebe, left, in the Fourth of July parade at the C.E.&H. celebration as their mother, Geni, and brother, Johnny, both on right, cheered them on.

For Anna Paisley Gray, riding her bike in the Crittenden, Eclipse and Hobson Fourth of July parade is a new tradition, but it’s one she wants to continue every year.

Anna Paisley, 9, participated in the parade for the second time on Monday, but she had some additional cargo — her 5-year-old sister, Phoebe.

With Phoebe in tow behind her, Anna Paisley pedaled her way down all of Eclipse Drive for the parade that kicked off the celebration, which was sponsored by Ebenezer United Methodist Church and the C.E.&H. Ruritan Club.

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The sisters, who live in Chuckatuck, rode alongside dozens of other cyclists and waved to the crowds of people, decked out in red, white and blue, lined up on the sides of the road. Phoebe even provided an extra treat as she threw candy to the kids.

In addition to bikes, the parade also featured fire engines, elaborately decorated trucks and golf carts, classic cars, the Nansemond River High School marching band and a multitude of ATVs, dirt bikes, motorcycles and scooters.

Anna Paisley said she was surprised she saw so many familiar faces in the crowd.

“It was kind of embarrassing,” she said. “They were all cheering for me.”

The girls also got to wave to their mother, Geni, and brother, Johnny, 7, as they went by in the parade.

Geni Gray said the family has attended the event every year since Anna Paisley was 8 months old.

“This is kind of a local, family tradition,” she said. “It’s nice to see all the classic cars, and the marching band is always nice.”

Driver resident Tim Kirkpatrick also participated in the parade, but instead of throwing candy, every one riding in his trailer soaked the crowd using water guns.

Kirkpatrick drove a golf cart, towing a trailer that held a colorful inflatable pool, filled with water and kids with water guns.

The kids gave parade watchers a quick cool-off or a wet surprise by randomly sending streams of water into the crowd.

Kirkpatrick and his family have been riding in the parade for the past five years, and he said they always stay for the entire C.E.&H. event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., when the fireworks are planned.

“I love it,” Kirkpatrick said. “We stay out here all day. We’re here to support the community.”

In addition to the parade, the day’s festivities included a play area filled with inflatables and other rides for children, a homemade raft race, refreshments, live music by The Elder Sparks Band, a silent auction and fireworks.

Vinie Copeland said even after 25 years, he always looks forward the C.E.&H. Independence Day event.

“This is our favorite day of the year,” he said.

He said the event is a great opportunity for the community to celebrate togetherness and patriotism.

“It’s a tight-knit community, and we all stick together,” he said. “And we all love our country.”