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Celebrate the Fourth in Suffolk

The Fourth of July will bring star-spangled celebrations throughout the city of Suffolk this Thursday.

Residents in North Suffolk will celebrate with the annual bicycle parade, raft race and fireworks in Eclipse. The celebration is hosted by Ebenezer United Methodist Church and the C.E.&H. Ruritans.

Staging for the bicycle parade will take place from 9:45 to 10:15 a.m. before remarks from event grand marshal, Delegate Chris Jones. The parade will start at 10:30 a.m.

Rod Thompson, co-chair for the activities and parade with Lee Ann Hawley, said in a phone interview that there’s, on average, 100 bikes that cruise through the neighborhood each year, and that all participants must wear a helmet.

The Nansemond River High School marching band will also be in the parade, and all local businesses are invited to participate, as well.

The parade is “classic Americana,” Thompson said, with families waving from their front lawns as the red, white and blue procession goes by.

“Eclipse in itself is an old school neighborhood, and when it comes to the Fourth of July, it doesn’t get any more American than that,” he said.

Ebenezer United Methodist Church will hold a bake sale, and once the parade concludes, there will be bounce houses and carnival games for children to enjoy.

The festivities will continue with the raft race at approximately 3 p.m. Spectators will gather at Johnson and Sons Seafood, 1504 White Dogwood Trail, to watch homemade rafts race along Chuckatuck Creek.

Fireworks will begin when it gets dark, Thompson said. Traditionally, families get their seats on the soccer field next to Ebenezer United Methodist Church to watch the fireworks shoot up from the baseball field.

In downtown Suffolk, the skies will light up with the Stars and Stripes Spectacular at Constant’s Wharf Park and Marina, 110 E. Constance Road.

The park will open at 5:30 p.m. with entertainment, children’s activities, vendors and plenty of food options. A large area with bounce houses and games will be available for children ages 12 and under for a $5 entry fee.

Johnny White and the Elite Band will take the stage at 6 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9 p.m. After the fireworks, traffic will be shut down for approximately 10 minutes from the Kimberly Bridge to the traffic signal at North Main Street and Constance Road to safely aid citizens in their exit, according to city spokeswoman Diana Klink.

There will be no onsite parking for the event. Shuttle parking will begin at 5 p.m. from the following sites:

4First Baptist Church parking lot, located across from 237 N. Main St.

4Suffolk City Hall parking lot, behind 442 W. Washington St.

4Mills Godwin Courts Building parking lot, behind 150 N. Main St.

The last shuttle run before the fireworks will be at 8:30 p.m. Shuttles will then resume after the fireworks have concluded.

The Suffolk Police Department reminded motorists and boaters in a press release to make safety a priority — a point the department will drive home with increased patrols this Thursday and throughout the holiday weekend.

They asked that people celebrate responsibly, with a designated driver, seatbelts fastened and zero distractions behind the wheel.

“The three main causes of highway fatalities are aggressive driving, impaired driving and failure to use occupant restraints,” according to the press release.

People need to be well-rested and alert, observe speed limits and follows the rules of the road. They need to also allow for extra travel time to reach their destinations, and they need to be patient and careful on the road.

“It is more important to arrive at your destination safely, than to arrive at your desired time,” the press release stated. “Don’t push traffic lights and speed to make it to your destination early. Expect increased traffic and understand it may take longer to reach your destination on the holiday.”

Those enjoying their Fourth of July by boat need to remember that alcohol and boating is a dangerous combination, as well, and can to lead boat operation problems or drowning. Appoint a designated driver to operate the boat, just as you would with a car.

The Suffolk Fire Marshal’s Office also urged safety and law-abiding fun this Fourth of July. In a press release, the office urged citizens to play it safe and follow the law when celebrating Independence Day, specifically with fireworks.

The use or sale of fireworks in the city is prohibited by city code. Yet every July 4, people — most often children and teens — are injured while using consumer fireworks.

The dangers of fireworks include fires, devastating burns and even death.

“The City of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Department and (the National Fire Protection Association) encourage people to enjoy public displays of fireworks, as the safest way to prevent fireworks-related injuries is to leave fireworks displays to trained experts,” according to the press release. “Preparing for a day of family barbecues and holiday excitement is no fun if it includes a trip to the emergency room due to improper handling of fireworks.”

For more information on the Stars and Stripes Spectacular downtown, contact Special Event Coordinator Emily Upton at 514-7267 or via email at eupton@suffolkva.us. For the Eclipse events, call 238-2359.