As the City of Woodstock prepares for this year’s July 4th celebration, we’ve been looking back at our past Independence Day parades and traditions. Although the way we celebrate July 4th in the City of Woodstock may have changed from year to year, one thing remains the same: Woodstock always shows its down-home patriotic pride.
Remember when skydivers used to land in the middle of Main Street just before the parade, or when residents enjoyed hot air balloon rides and go-cart races? How about past grand marshals, including Corky Jones, Don Hatcher, Earl and Linda Mulkey, Chester Reeve, and Lillie Mae Brownlee? Do you recall when the fireworks were displayed at Dupree Park, the old Woodstock Elementary School field, or downtown City Park?
The official July 4th tradition started in 1997 with the celebration of Woodstock’s 100th birthday. Since the city charter was granted in 1897, the Woodstock Centennial Commission planned a year-round 100th birthday celebration, including the building and dedication of Woodstock’s Centennial Park, now called The Park at City Center. In 2015, the event name changed to the City of Woodstock July 4th Spectacular.
In 1997, 600 runners participated in the first official Freedom Run. Today, this 5K is the second largest July 4th race in Georgia with close to 1,000 runners. The race was originally meant to accommodate those who were not chosen to participate with the 50,000 runners in the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. Many now prefer the Woodstock race for its professionalism, competition, course, and hometown feel. Tony Crawford, pastor of Dayspring Church, still organizes the race, now in its 23rd year. For more information, visit WoodstockFreedomRun.com.
Over the years, the annual July 4th parade has had many organizers, including the Woodstock Jaycees, Woodstock Centennial Commission, and the Parks and Recreation Commission. Today, the City of Woodstock Parks and Recreation Department organizes both the July 4th and Christmas Jubilee parades with the help of the Public Works, Police, and Fire Departments. The parade route starts at Woodstock Elementary School, travels down Main Street, and ends at Sam’s Club on Highway 92. Competition for “Best Float” entries gets better each year. The newest float contest, the “History & Heritage Award” will be given to the float that best represents Woodstock.
The festival in The Park at City Center begins right after the July 4th parade. Guests can enjoy live music by A Theory of Now, children’s games and inflatables, arts and crafts, food, Adam the Juggler, and vendors of all types. Stick around to find out the winners in the parade float competition categories. New this year is the Frolic on the Fourth, which will feature local dance and martial arts studios strutting their stuff on the Northside Hospital Cherokee Amphitheater stage.
Since 2002, the fireworks crowd has grown to over 30,000 spectators. When the show increased in size in 2014, it became one of the largest and best pyrotechnic displays in north Georgia. Though the launch site has moved a couple blocks due to new construction, the viewing areas remain the same. So, join your friends and neighbors in the area of 575 and Highway 92 for an evening of fun.
More information about the parade, festival, and fireworks can be found on the Woodstock Parks and Recreation website, WoodstockParksandRec.com.