Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
FAITH — For Jane Cooper, the Fourth of July can be summed up by what she calls the three F’s — Faith, family and food.
“That’s what it’s all about,” she said.
Cooper, a northern Rowan County resident, sat surrounded by family members as she awaited the start of the Faith Fourth of July parade Wednesday morning.
After the parade, they planned to move over to the park to enjoy some lunch.
“I tell you, you have to come here to get a good hot dog,” she said.
About 20,000 people showed up for the annual parade, according to police estimates.
That’s down from the 40,000 people who turned out last year. Parade organizers estimate a typical year brings 30,000 people to downtown Main Street for mile-and-a-half parade.
“The heat is probably keeping them away,” said Tina Solomon, a Salisbury resident who has been coming to the parade “forever.” “But they’ll still be coming up until the last minute tonight.”
Neil Dixon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the high Wednesday reached 93 degrees, up from the normal high of 89 degrees for the Fourth of July.
But it was cooler Wednesday following a weekend of triple digit temperatures that baked the area with an all-time high for June at 104 degrees.
Allison Culp of Granite Quarry found a creative way to keep cool, by bringing along an inflatable baby pool to sit in during the parade. She picked up the idea at a car race earlier this year.
“I might look like a fool, but everybody’s going to wish they did the same thing,” she said. “This is the only way to survive this heat.”
Howard Douglas noticed a thinner crowd than usual as he stood near the Faith Soda Shop on Wednesday morning with his wife, Wendy, and 10-year-old daughter Grace. Only one row of people gathered behind them.
“It’s usually packed with people about 20 feet deep right here,” he said.
The scorching heat didn’t keep Lori Misenheimer and her 94-year-old mother-in-law, Nancy Misenheimer, away from the parade. The two women sat under a large umbrella and used paper hand fans to keep cool.
“It wouldn’t be the Fourth without some heat,” Lori said. “She’s come every year since the beginning. She doesn’t think the parade can start without her.”
Lori Misenheimer said the Faith Fourth of July parade is a nice family outing for both adults and children.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” she said.
Deanne Smith and her family parked their pickup truck on Main Street the day before the parade to ensure a good viewing spot.
“We used to be able to come the day of the fourth, but not anymore,” she said.
Part of her family, Trent and Wanette Patterson, travel from Troutman for the Fourth of July festivities every year.
“It’s an all-day events for us. We start with a country ham biscuit for breakfast, enjoy the parade and get a barbecue sandwich for lunch,” Wanette said. “We look forward to it every year.”
The Fourth of July isn’t just a day to celebrate America’s independence for Michelle Wagoner and Jonathan Gentry. It’s also a day to commemorate their love.
The engaged couple marked their 10th anniversary Wednesday by spending the day at the Faith Fourth.
Wagoner said she was in the parade the year she met Gentry.
“I soaked him with a water gun and he found me after and followed me around,” Wagoner said. “He stole a kiss on the ferris wheel and before the fireworks started that night we started dating officially.
“We’ve been together ever since.”
The couple will wed in October 2013, but July 4 remains especially meaningful.
“We come here every year and watch the fireworks together,” Wagoner said.
The parade kicked off at the intersection of Rainey Road with firetrucks leading the way down Main Street.
The East Rowan High School JROTC color guard followed behind them.
The crowd cheered loudly as Marcelle Williams, the parade’s grand marshal, made his way down the street.
Williams, a Faith native, served on the Board of Education for two decades.
He became an active member of the Faith American Legion Post 327 after serving in the United States Navy during World War II.
This year’s parade featured about 132 units.
After the parade, spectators gathered to raise the American flag as Salisbury resident Neal Wilkinson sang the national anthem.
Allie Brindle of Gold Hill was crowned the new Miss Rowan County Veteran.
A rising senior at East Rowan High School, Brindle represents the Harold B. Jarrett Post 342.
It’s an honor to represent the veterans and all those who fight for our country,” Brindle said. “I’m excited about this opportunity.”
Lauren Knox of Salisbury, a recent honors graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, was named the first runner-up. She represents J.C. Price American Legion Post 107.
The eight-day stretch of the 66th annual Faith Fourth of July festivities came to a close with a bang Wednesday as fireworks lit up the sky.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.