Raleigh's Fourth of July festival brings families downtown

dquizon@newsobserver.comJuly 4, 2013 

For the second year in a row, Raleigh took its Independence Day festival downtown.

Organizers shifted locations from the State Fairgrounds to the city last year, hoping to promote downtown businesses. The move brought mixed reviews, but the city worked on last year’s kinks so they wouldn’t reappear this year.

The biggest change, organizer Taylor Traversari said, was the addition of a second fireworks show at Red Hat Amphitheater. A major criticism last year was that the fireworks couldn’t be seen beyond Fayetteville Street.

“People were very happy with the (festival) layout last year; they were just disappointed in the fireworks,” he said.

Traversari said the addition of the second show fixed that – they were able to use bigger shells in the more open setting of the amphitheater.

Outside of that, organizers tried to stick to the formula they established last year, he said.

“We tried to keep everything family-oriented,” he said. “That’s what the Fourth is all about.”

Along with the usual festival attractions – carnival games, rides and several eating contests – attendees were able to explore what downtown has to offer.

The Raleigh City Museum opened its doors for free. Assistant Kim Puryear said they’re trying to familiarize residents with the museum before it opens a new wing in the fall.

If for no other reason, people streamed into the building Thursday for relief from the heat. According to the National Weather Service, Raleigh’s heat index peaked at around 92 degrees.

“Our doors are always open,” Puryear said. “These downtown events are great for the museum.”

Some people liked the move to downtown.

Charlie Jones, who had set up a table for the Cameron Bar and Grill, said everything was closer together, making the atmosphere more festive.

“At the fairgrounds, you could be in a 1- or 2-mile radius,” he said. “Here you have to be kind of front and center … it gives everyone kind of a community feel.”

Several revelers cited the fare from surrounding restaurants – everything from barbecue to sushi to funnel cake – as the best part of the event.

“The diversity of the food is amazing,” said Kristen Votta, of Raleigh.

Her husband, Geoff Votta, said it was a departure from the usual festival fare of “corn dogs and fried Oreos,” although there were plenty of those as well.

Since the city moved the festival downtown a year ago, the city has made it into an all-day event featuring live music from 19 bands. Dancers, acrobats, wrestlers and clowns took the stages and lined the sidewalks.

It was enough to bring Scott Green up to the event from Smithfield. Green, a single parent, said most of his family and friends were at the coast, but couldn’t join them this year.

“I’ve got an 8-year-old daughter – this is the ideal place to be,” he said.

The festival also drew a lot of visitors and new residents. Allen Williams, who recently moved from Fredericksburg, Va., to Apex, said he wanted to use the holiday to get to know the city better.

“We can grill in the backyard anytime,” he said.

Quizon: 919-836-5768

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