By Sarah Campbell
FAITH — The chairs started showing up in front of the Faith Fourth of July stage early Tuesday morning for a concert that doesn’t begin until 7:30 p.m. today.
“People are very proactive,” said Gloria Wilhelm, who’s in charge of purchasing and vendors for the annual eight-day celebration.
That isn’t unusual. Cars also begin parking in vacant lots days before the mile-and-a-half Fourth of July parade travels down Main Street, Wilhelm said, a prudent decision to ensure they have a spot among the nearly 30,000 spectators.
Preparation for the 66th annual event kicked off almost immediately after last year’s festivities ended.
Wilhelm said that includes monthly meetings with the Faith Fourth of July committee, which is made up of a total of 12 members, three from each of the civic groups that sponsor the event.
“It takes a year’s worth of planning,” she said. “Nothing just happens.” Wilhelm said not much has changed since the Fourth of July festivities began in 1946.
“We try our best to keep that old-fashioned flavor,” she said.
Faith American Legion Post No. 327, Faith American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 327, Faith Civitans and Faith Jaycees have kept the event going without a hitch.
“We’ve had a lot of the same people volunteering for years and years and years,” Wilhelm said. “Chances are if your daddy fried hamburgers and he’s gone, now you fry hamburgers.”
Wilhelm said the only major change throughout the years has been the addition of nightly bands, which draw people who might not be interested in rides or games.
Entertainment and parade
Throughout the celebration, between 1,000 and 2,500 people show up in Faith to find a carnival and stage on the grounds of Faith American Legion Park.
Old-fashioned games such as an egg toss are held at the Faith Elementary School ballpark starting at 7 p.m. July 4.
Randall Barger, in charge of entertainment for the event, said beach music bands make up the majority of the musical lineup, but the Salisbury Swing Band will mix it up at 7 p.m. Sunday.
The annual patriotic program put on by Faith Baptist Church will begin at 5 p.m. Sunday.
This year’s Faith Idol contest will kick off at 8:30 p.m. Friday with the competition for children 12 years old or younger. It continues at the same time Saturday for juniors and Monday for adults.
The final idol contest will take place at 7 p.m. July 4.
Barger said all of the slots for idol have been filled and there are some people on the waiting list.
The parade time will move up to 9:45 a.m. this year with fire trucks from almost every station in the county leading the way.
“We’re hoping to get the parade going in main town quicker,” Pam Alexander, a parade organizer, said.
Faith native Marcelle Williams has been named the grand marshal of this year’s parade, which starts at the intersection of Rainey Road.
Alexander said parade goers should arrive by at least 9 a.m., but many lines the street much earlier.
“There are people there as early at 5:30 a.m.,” she said. “We usually go to put the parade lineup signs up and there are people sitting out on these streets drinking coffee and eating breakfast.”
The Memories 1280 WSAT morning show will be broadcast live from the Faith Soda Shop the morning of the parade.
Alexander said the Faith Fourth of July parade is famous for the amount of candy thrown out.
“The kids bring grocery bags to catch all that candy,” he said. “Just about every unit throws out candy.”
A blackhawk helicopter will fly over during the parade and land in the ballpark of the elementary school until 2 p.m.
Members from the civic groups began barbecuing 120 pork shoulders early Tuesday morning. They also mixed up about 30 gallons of vinegar-based barbecue sauce that filled two large pots.
They’ll be back at it next Tuesday to barbecue 90 more shoulders to serve July 4.
The four civic groups sell homemade food each night, including hotdogs, hamburgers, barbecue and grilled ham throughout the event.
Three generations of the Beaver family will be on hand selling ribbon fries, roasted corn and slushies.
Mike Beaver said his ribbon fries can be topped with ranch, cheese, jalapenos and bacon bits. He’s been selling them at Faith Fourth since 1970.
“Most people like them all the way,” he said. “They’re just so good.”
Matthew Johnson, Beaver’s grandson, is bringing his slushies to the festival for the first time. But instead of having a stand, he operates out of a revamped 1977 Volkswagen van.
“I have a friend who does this and he’s got a little cart, but I wanted to do something different so I came up with this,” he said.
His most popular flavors are orange dreamsicle and blue raspberry.
Thai food will make an appearance at Faith Fourth for the first time.
Chef Cassie Sorrells traveled from Virginia to sell the handmade food, which includes all fresh vegetables and no chemicals. She said there are several things on the menu to offer relief from the heat including traditional Thai tea.
“The fresh spring rolls are really good when it’s hot out because it’s basically like a salad,” she said. “Watermelon is also a big Thai thing, plus what’s better than watermelon on the Fourth of July.”
The money the four civic groups raise during the Faith Fourth is funneled back into their groups to help out a variety of causes.
“They also support the six local schools by purchasing American flags, buying clothing for needy children and sponsoring scholarships.
“We don’t have little projects throughout the year, we have this one big project,” Wilhelm said. “It’s good to do things knowing you can help people out.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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