By Ashley Rader
The patriotic spirit and American pride of Carter County was on display in downtown Elizabethton as hundreds of people came out to enjoy the annual Fourth of July parade.
The parade began at noon and lasted for approximately 30 minutes. The parade had around 20 entrants that consisted of local businesses, churches and organizations. Local officials, politicians and dignitaries were also present in the parade.
The parade was led by Grand Marshal Bill Carter, who was attired in his full dress uniform for the event. Carter is an Army veteran. He retired with the rank of Lt. Colonel with 30 years experience in the Army. He has served as a member of City Council since November 2010.
The crowd especially enjoyed the parade’s tributes to local veterans which were met with rounds of applause as the memorial proceeded down the street. A black convertible driven by Andy Whetsel, who is also a veteran, was draped with an American flag. The car was proceeded by an active duty soldier carrying a folded American flag. The tribute was to honor all of the lost and fallen soldiers from Carter County.
The parade also included a number of local veterans from different conflicts that were chauffeured along the parade route by members of the Carter County Car Club. As each veteran passed the different sections of the parade spectators they were greeted with applause, shouts of appreciation and salutes.
Rolling Thunder Tennessee Chapter 4, a veteran’s advocacy group, progressed through the parade route on their motorcycles and vehicles. They stopped at different points along the route, dismounted their motorcycles, came to attention and saluted the American flag.
The Independence Day parade also included a flyover by Wings Air Rescue, the cast of the outdoor drama Liberty!, the Jericho Shriners Oriental Band and the Watts Dance Studio dancers.
Several young people from the community were present in the parade to be recognized for their achievements. These included Sloan Rogers, who won several medals in Special Olympics; Haley Hood, Little Miss Watauga Valley; and Carlee Sullins, Little Miss Tri-Cities.
A number of politicians had campaign floats in the parade or made appearances themselves. Congressman Phil Roe, Representative Kent Williams, Senator Rusty Crowe and State Representative candidate Timothy Hill were a part of the parade. Local officials City Mayor Curt Alexander, County Mayor Leon Humphrey, City Manager Fred Edens, Sheriff Chris Mathes and Chamber of Commerce President Chandrea Shell also participated.
Other participants included Life Care Center of Elizabethton, East Tennessee Spay and Neuter, the Carter County Amateur Radio Association, Memorial Presbyterian Church, Harmony Free Will Baptist Church, Iron Mountain Produce, Avon representatives, Admiral Propane, Aaron’s and the Elizabethton STAR. The parade ended with an Elizabethton Fire Department ladder truck carrying the players from the Elizabethton Twins.
Interim Director of the Chamber of Commerce Annika Hampton was pleased with this year’s Fourth of July parade.
“Everything came together really well,” she said. “There was a good turnout and everyone enjoyed themselves. It was a good parade.”
Parade spectators agreed that the 2012 parade was a success.
“I enjoyed the parade,” said Starr Nave of Elizabethton. “I am thankful that they honored the veterans. My father is a Vietnam veteran. I really enjoyed the memorial they did for the fallen veterans at the beginning of the parade.”
“It was a really cool parade,” said Zion Madden of Elizabethton. “It was a good parade. I liked the Shriner’s Band. They are always my favorite part.”
“I liked seeing the veterans in the parade,” said Pam Smith of Hampton. “It was a nice way to recognize them and that is what it is all about.”