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North Georgians celebrate nation's independence

Fourth of July festivities all across the region this weekend

POSTED: July 3, 2014 1:00 a.m.

North Georgians are set to celebrate their independence with a bang this Fourth of July. Whether it be through time-honored traditions or new additions to old favorites, a host of celebrations across the area will allow families and friends to remember those whose sacrificed to free a nation and whose lives were dedicated to service in the community.

“We’re hoping that people come out and realize what this is all about, and that’s celebrating our independence. It did not come free,” said Ron Kellner, commander of American Legion Post No. 7 and organizer of the Legion’s 51st annual fireworks display at Laurel Park.

As a career Army officer specializing in combat intelligence, Kellner fought in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966. The experience solidified the meaning of the holiday for the Gainesville resident.

“I was very happy to be able to return home alive, as there are many of our fellow brethren who did not and paid the full sacrifice,” Kellner said.

In celebration and remembrance of that sacrifice, the American Legion’s fireworks display has undergone a few renovations for its 51st year.

New additions include an arts and crafts show and the reintroduction of a children’s play area, both of which transform the fireworks display into an all-day, family-friendly event. The $5 fee per car allows patrons access to hamburgers and hotdogs prepared by the Boy Scouts and entrance into a prize drawing. This year’s prize is an American flag flown in an F-14D fighter jet above Afghanistan, certified with the pilot’s name and official documentation.

All proceeds benefit the American Legion and pay for the festivities.

The American Legion also chose a new fireworks supplier for 2014, which promises to infuse a new level of excitement to the time-honored proceedings.

“The fireworks are going to be spectacular, especially the grand finale,” Kellner said. “I don’t think you’re going to find a better fireworks display.”

The fireworks display will begin at dark, but festivities will run all day at 3100 Old Cleveland Highway.

But North Georgians can start celebrating their independence a day ahead of schedule. The Northwinds Symphonic Band will performs its Patriotic Pops Concert tonight.

In addition to honoring the sacrifices of military servicemen, the band will pay tribute to its first conductor Ron Evans, who died in February. Evans served in the Hall County School System for 23 years as band director for Gainesville, Shiloh and Johnson High Schools and as a member of The Arts Council board for 12 years. He also founded the Northwinds Symphonic Band in 1984.

“(Evans’) ties run deep throughout this community and actually throughout the state,” said Gladys Wyant, executive director of The Arts Council. “Ron was very affable and just did not seem to make any enemies.”

The Patriotic Pops concert is a fitting tribute to Evans, as he was at the helm in 2013 when the ensemble took over the annual performance after the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra disbanded.

“(Evans) just loved his craft and was able to bring in many volunteers to perform with the (Northwinds Symphonic Band), close to 90 members at one time,” Wyant said.

Songs to be performed include “Fanfare for the Common Man,” “God Bless America,” and highlights from “The Music Man.”

The Patriotic Pops Concert begins at 8 p.m. on the Smithgall Arts Center Lawn. Adult tickets are $18 and student and senior tickets $15. A table seating up to eight may be purchased for $200. Patrons are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. Concert-goers may also bring their own picnic dinners or purchase one from several area restaurants.

To reserve tickets or for more information about dinner purchases, contact 770-534-2787 or visit theartscouncil.net.

In Lumpkin County

In Dahlonega, the all-day Fourth of July Celebration begins at 9 a.m. with the Dahlonega Firecracker 5/10K. Kids Zones, a classic car show, live music, a parade and a patriotic ceremony are on the roster for the celebration, which culminates in the Spectacular Fireworks Display presented by the University of North Georgia. For $20, patrons can watch the fireworks from inside the UNG dining hall while enjoying an assortment of cheesecake.

In White County

In Helen, the annual Fourth of July Fireworks will commence at dusk. Patrons are encouraged to watch the display from behind the Alpine Village Shoppes and Helen Welcome Center at 726 Brucken Strasse. The event is free.

In Jackson County

The Celebrate Braselton festival begins at 4 p.m. on the Fourth in the Braselton Park on Harrison Street. Activities will include live music, food, crafts and kids’ activities. The parade, featuring Command Sgt. Major Bart Womack as grand marshal, will commence at 6 p.m., followed by a fireworks extravaganza slated to close the evening. All events are free. For more information, contact 706-654-3915.

In Gwinnett County

At Lake Lanier Islands Resort in Buford, patrons can celebrate their freedom while enjoying the sights and sounds of Lake Lanier at the Red, White & Blue Fourth of July Party at Sunset Cove from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Entertainment includes a remote broadcast from Kicks 101.5 from 4-7 p.m. Local musicians Second Hand Swagger will strike up a tune from 3-4:15 p.m., followed by country musician Convoy from 6:30-9 p.m. Fireworks commence over the lake at 10 p.m. Admission is $36.99 for patrons 42 inches and taller or $26.99 for those 42 inches and shorter.

The Mall of Georgia will host its 12th annual Fabulous Fourth celebration beginning at 5 p.m. Free concerts and a Kids Zone will entertain audiences until fireworks light up the sky at 10 p.m. A screening of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” will follow on the mall’s new 70-foot movie screen. Admission is $10 for access to Kids Zones.


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