Independence Day was a memorable one for Parvez Mirza, who took the Oath of Allegiance and became a naturalized citizen in front of the State Capitol on Monday.
“It’s a great honor,” Mirza, 73, said.
Mirza is from Pakistan, and has been in the United States for 13 years. He first came on a work visa, he said.
Today he works as a project manager for a local general contracting company, he said.
Mirza, his wife, Najma Firdous, and two of his children came from Pakistan to live in America. In December, Firdous also became a citizen. The pair was able to work through a few of the naturalization steps together, including a test on U.S. history and civics.
A total of 26 people from 22 countries took the oath at the ceremony, which included a wreath laying, and readings from the Declaration of Independence. A crowd of several hundred people gathered to watch the noon event.
The naturalization ceremony has been held for the last six years, and coincides with the Capitol’s historically-focused July Fourth festivities, said Terra Schramm, the State Capitol’s site administrator. This year, organizers moved the naturalization ceremony from the east lawn to the south side of the Capitol, hoping to connect the two celebrations.
“It’s just fun to get the people here, and think about the best parts of our country,” Schramm said.
At the Capitol’s event, visitors could take carriage rides and listen to music, and children could dress up and play old-fashioned games.
Wes Sherry and his husband, John Sherry, parked their car near the State Capitol and happened upon the naturalization ceremony. The couple moved from the Charlotte area to Raleigh a few years ago.
John Sherry said the downtown event showed off one of his favorite aspects of the city.
“That’s one of the best things about Raleigh,” John Sherry said, “that it’s one of the most diverse places in North Carolina.”
Across Morgan Street, and stretching mostly along Fayetteville Street for nearly a half-mile, the Raleigh event, called The Works, offered an almost endless possibility of amusements for people downtown on Monday.
From noon until 11 p.m., 15 bands on two street stages played a soundtrack for people who watched or joined in hot dog eating and watermelon seed spitting contests.
Two fireworks shows, one at City Plaza and a newly-added free show at the Red Hat Amphitheater, were scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Overcast skies can be dicey for organizers of a large outdoor festival, but Monday’s clouds at least kept temperatures down.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi