Faith Fourth gets under way

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 27, 2011

By Emily Ford
FAITH — How does a tiny town in eastern Rowan County put on one of the biggest Fourth of July celebrations in the state?
With a lot of pride and hard work.
“People have pride in America, but Faith shows that more than any place around,” said Randall Barger, whose family has been involved with the Fourth of July celebration since it began 65 years ago.
With good weather, between 1,000 and 3,000 people will show up in Faith every night this week, where a carnival and stage on the sprawling grounds of Faith American Legion Park and Faith Elementary School will offer games, rides and entertainment.
Then, on July 4, a crowd typically estimated at 30,000 will descend on the town for the mile-and-a-half parade, starting at 10 a.m.
The Faith Fourth celebration kicks off at 6 p.m. today with Dollar Night for carnival rides and the Entertainers on stage at 7:30 p.m.
Rides and games will open nightly, with festivities continuing all day on July 4 following the parade. The fireworks grand finale starts popping at 10:30 p.m.
Then, weary volunteers will have a few weeks rest before they start planning next year’s celebration.
“It’s getting harder every year,” said Greg Peeler, who serves as co-chairman of the steering committee with Tim Shue. “It keeps getting bigger, and we keep getting older.”
Four civic groups in town, plus numerous residents, keep Faith Fourth going. The Faith American Legion Post No. 327, Faith American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 327, Faith Civitans and Faith Jaycees are the backbone of the event.
“Each one takes a whole lot of pride in this,” Peeler said.
People too old to set up, cook or prepare for crowds of thousands anymore still keep their memberships in the civic groups because they like to feel a part of the festivities, said Gloria Wilhelm, who’s in charge of purchasing and vendors.
“It’s the excitement. You can feel it in the beauty shops and churches, anywhere people are gathered,” said Wilhelm, who started volunteering when she was 14.
Several families in town have entered their fourth generation of volunteering.
Since 1946, the small town has hosted a Fourth of July celebration focused on patriotism and the military. For Barger, the highlight of the week is a community program and sing at 5 p.m. Sunday at Faith Baptist Church, featuring participants from dozens of area churches.
“This exemplifies the whole week,” he said. “It’s patriotism at it’s best.”
The four civic groups sell homemade food each night. They have sole rights to a specific list — hotdogs, hamburgers, barbecue and grilled ham — and everybody knows it.
Well, almost everybody.
A rookie vendor setting up Sunday posted his menu, including hotdogs.
Peeler’s 9-year-old grandson sounded the alarm.
“PawPaw, he’s not supposed to be here,” the boy told Peeler.
The vendor removed hotdogs from his list.
Several members of the Faith Jaycees showed up at 4:30 a.m. Sunday to prepare 120 pork shoulders. That will last the week, they said.
Then, volunteers will cook 100 more shoulders next Sunday just for the Fourth of July.
Blair Smith-Kimmer, a member of the Jaycees and the Faith Fourth steering committee, said her son Sam, now 18, has helped since he was 7 years old.
“It instills a sense of community,” she said.
Sylvia Barger arrived Sunday evening with son Cory Barger, lawn chairs in hand, to stake out a spot in front of the stage to view the week’s entertainment. Several dozen others had beaten them to it, but good vantage points remained.
The mother of Randall Barger, Sylvia Barger said the small town’s big patriotic tribute to the U.S. military continues year after year.
“You can’t help but feel proud,” she said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
Faith Fourth menu
While many commercial vendors sell food at the weeklong Faith Fourth celebration, volunteers from four civic organizations prepare what many consider the tastiest items.
Here’s what people will consume on July 4 alone, all prepared by volunteers:
• 4,500  pounds  of  barbecued  shoulders.
• 5,000  hot dogs.
• 7,000  hamburgers.
• 1,800  pounds of country ham.
• 5,000  ice cream  cones.
• 20,000  drinks.
• 2,500  pounds  of  cabbage  for  making  slaw.
Faith Fourth
Dollar Night: All rides $1
6 p.m.: Food booths and rides open.
7:30 p.m. The Entertainers
6 p.m.: Food booths and rides open.
7:30 p.m.: Jim Quick and Coastline.                                                  
6 p.m.: food booths and rides open.
7:30 p.m.:  Mark Roberts and The Breeze Band.
8:30 p.m.: Faith Idol.
6 p.m.: Food booths and rides open.
7:30 p.m.: Sea Cruz.
8:30 p.m.: Faith Idol.                                      
6 p.m.: Food booths and rides open.                                    
7:30 p.m.: Atlantic Groove Band.
8:30 p.m.: Faith Idol.
6 p.m.: Food booths and rides open.
7:30 p.m.: Billy Joel & Elton John Tribute Band.
4 p.m.: Food booths open.
4:30 p.m.: Shrine band at Faith Baptist Church.
5 p.m.: Faith Patriotic Program at Faith Baptist Church.
6 p.m.: Rides open.
7 p.m.: Gospel Music-One Road Home.
8 p.m.: The Chapeleers.
July 4
10 a.m.: Parade followed by flag raising, National Anthem and crowning of Miss Rowan County Veteran.
Noon to 5 p.m.: Rides open – $20 armband.
7 p.m.: Faith Idol Finals.
7 p.m.: Races, games, watermelon eating contest at Faith School ballpark.
8 p.m.: The Catalinas.
10:30 p.m.: Fireworks.