July 4 celebration draws despite move

07/08/2013 1:58 PM

07/08/2013 2:00 PM

A last-minute change in date kept attendance lower than in previous years, but the Town of Garner’s Independence Day celebration Friday still drew about 15,000 people to Lake Benson Park for music and fireworks.

The celebration has long been considered a highlight for the town.

“This is pretty ambitious, but our elected officials have always taken a lot of pride putting this on,” Garner town spokesman Rick Mercier said.

U.S. Rep. David Price and a handful of local speakers from the town made remarks at the celebration featuring musical performances and recognition of Garner earning All-America City honors.

Mayor Ronnie Williams said that the celebration proved a success, especially considering the date change.

“It was down a bit, but it was still a good crowd,” Williams said of the event that usually draws 18,000-20,000. “It fulfilled the intent of coming together to enjoy the fireworks, the music and the people you’re there with.”

The town moved the celebration from the traditional July 3 to July 5 because of forecasts of rain. It did shower Wednesday, and in addition, rain from earlier in the week would have resulted in a waterlogged event.

“That field would have been so sloppy so fast,” Mercier said of the grass at Lake Benson Park. “Letting the field dry up a couple days in the sun really helped.”

The one casualty of the move was the North Carolina Symphony. Typically the full compliment performs, but the move limited the symphony’s availability to just its Brass Quintet. The Central Park Band also played.

Garner also used the opportunity to promote its All-America City victory in Denver in June. The town was one of 10 municipalities in the nation to win the National Civic League competition.

Most of the event’s speakers went to Denver, including Veteran’s Memorial Committee vice president Faye Gardner, GPAC director Beth Honeycutt, planning commission board member and pastor Elmo Vance, Chamber of Commerce president Neal Padgett and Community of Hope director of operations Craig Furlough.

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