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Having Fourth fun in Eclipse

Independence Day 2019 from Suffolk News-Herald on Vimeo.

Suffolk’s Eclipse community once again embraced its favorite holiday on Thursday, when hundreds of friends and family celebrated another hot and humid Fourth of July.

Ebenezer United Methodist Church and the C.E.&H. Ruritans once again hosted Fourth of July celebrations in Eclipse, including the 43rd annual bicycle parade, carnival games and concessions and the raft race on Chuckatuck Creek.

The festivities started Thursday morning with remarks from Delegate Chris Jones as the parade procession got organized. Flashing lights of police vehicles and fire trucks led the way for numerous floats, roughly 30 golf carts and more than 50 children on their bicycles, plus the Nansemond River High School marching band.

Riders waved at hundreds of attendees as they rode down Eclipse Drive. Everyone was decked out in red, white and blue attire — even dogs with tiny star-spangled hats.

Attendees gathered at the parade’s start near the intersection of Eclipse Drive and Steeple Drive, with their lawn chairs in front of the C.E.H. Ruritan Hall and on their lawns throughout the neighborhood. Golf carts tossed out candy and freeze pops that children frantically collected with glee.

Channing Acree, 15, enjoyed the parade with her family, including her grandmother, Christine Wright, who lives in Eclipse. Channing liked the fire trucks and all the decorative parade floats — especially the one with her pool manager on it, she said.

“It’s just a fun experience,” she said. “I’m happy I could enjoy it this year. I haven’t been able to the past few years.”

Participants rode on ATVs in the parade and in classic cars. Cyclists wore helmets, sunglasses and the American flag in the hot sun, and the Eclipse community was once again gracious in giving out bottles of water to overheated celebrators.

“We’re all neighbors here,” said Donnie Lovell, who’s lived in Eclipse for 30 years. “It’s kind of a close-knit community, and everybody gets to get out and have fun.”

This year was an exceptional turnout for that fun, as well, event co-chair Rod Thompson said.

“(The) turnout this year is awesome,” he said. “I won’t lie, it’s been a few years since we’ve seen a turnout this big, (and) we have a lot of people still trickling in after the parade’s now ending. We’re more than pleased.”

Families stopped by Ebenezer UMC after the parade concluded to have their fill of concessions and baked goods. Thompson praised the ladies of the church that had been cooking and preparing their Fourth of July feast all week, along with a raffle for a boy’s bicycle, a girl’s bike and gift cards.

There were also 10 to 15 different carnival games for kids to enjoy, along with face painting, tug-of-war matches and sack races. Inflatables also made a welcome return this year thanks to support from the community, Thompson said.

“We’re really trying to take it back and get that old school American vibe, before social media and before everyone was racing for air conditioning as fast as they could,” he said.

Competitors were paddling as fast as they could on Chuckatuck Creek in the raft race Thursday afternoon, with dozens of onlookers at Johnson and Sons Seafood.

There were more than a half-dozen rafts in this year’s race, each one constructed by the competitors and in creative fashion, including a school bus. Jadyn Gray, an Eclipse resident, was the winner in her raft, “’Merica Mellon.”

Even after the raft race was finished, there were still fireworks to look forward to Thursday evening. Thompson, a chief petty officer in the Navy for 20 years and counting, said it was a great day to get back to their roots, with pure community spirit and classic Americana.

“Fourth of July is by far my favorite holiday, and you could tell that it’s this neighborhood’s favorite holiday,” he said. “We love celebrating America. Everyone out here is so stoked to be just American.”