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Church celebrates USA with 'God and Country' event
First United Methodist Church youth parade their patriotic decorated bikes around the parking lot at First United Methodist Church Sunday afternoon during the church’s God and Country Patriotic Day celebrations.
Wearing patriotic costumes and with flags fluttering on their little vehicles, the children circled the parking lot of First United Methodist Church in Gainesville.

The "Trike-tilla" parade of tricycles and little red wagons served as a main attraction at Sunday’s God and Country Patriotic Day at the church at 2780 Thompson Bridge Road.

Children bounced on an inflatable castle, played games, bobbed for apples and got faces painted during the annual event, intended to get families in the July Fourth spirit.

Robert Sapp, the church’s former director of leisure ministries, started the event several years ago "as a way to honor God and country and for us to celebrate in a Christian atmosphere," said the Rev. Steve Winter, the church’s executive pastor.

The event once featured a flotilla of boats in a Lake Lanier cove beside the church.

"There’s not enough water to do that out there, so the recreation committee came up with the Trike-tilla," Winter said. "The kids have decorated up wagons, bicycles and scooters and whatever. It’s just good family fun."

The event also featured festival foods, such as hot dogs and cotton candy, and a cake-baking contest with adult and children’s divisions.

A patriotic concert by the 60-member Believers Band capped off the day.

"It is a great day. The kids are having a blast," said Cindy Barrett, a church member and Gainesville resident who brought her 3-year-old twins, Will and Anslee.

"They had a lot of fun in the parade."

Jeff Reinhardt and his daughter, Emma, of Gainesville took a break sitting near the inflatable castle.

"I was lucky enough to be a taster for the children’s cake-baking contest," he said. "... It’s a job I’d like to have again next year."

He added, "We just decided to come out and be patriotic with our church family. We had a great sermon this morning on how God blesses America and how God blesses the world."

Emma said she enjoyed sending one of the church’s youth group members into the water at the dunking booth.

Shirley Brewster stood and watched her granddaughter, 3-year-old Amelia, take baseball swings in an attraction that featured an inflatable bat, ball and enclosed ball field.

"I’ve always enjoyed this event," said Brewster, business administrator at the church and a Dahlonega resident. "There’s something for everybody here."

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