Family, community captured at Faith Fourth of July

Published 6:41 pm Thursday, July 4, 2019

FAITH — Sporting the patriotic colors red, white and blue, thousands of people gathered from across the state and beyond to participate in Faith’s 73rd annual Fourth of July celebration.

People packed Main Street to view the roughly two-hour-long, mile-and-a-half parade and partake in the daylong festivities — one of the biggest Fourth of July celebrations in the state.

Thursday’s parade and festivities were the final celebrations of a seven-day celebration of Independence Day.

The parade opened with greetings from members of the Faith Board of Aldermen riding in the back of a historic firetruck. Naturally, to follow, was a parade of historic and modern firetrucks representing each of Rowan County’s 32 fire districts as well as its rescue squad.

Floats and parade participants ranged from the East Rowan High School Band to local businesses, officials and more. The parade also featured re-enactment soldiers representing wars past — including soldiers and vehicles from World War II and a Civil War honor guard.

Fourth of July festivities in Faith date back to 1946, with roots of the celebration going back further to 1903. The town government sanctioned the celebration in 1920, but because of economic conditions, the annual gatherings were not consistent. After World War II, times changed and the celebration has been hosted with pride ever since.

This year’s parade was accompanied by amusement rides, food booths and the Miss Rowan County Veteran Pageant. The pageant is hosted by Faith American Legion Post 327.

Representing Gen. Allen Hal Turnage Marine Corps League Detachment 1096, Aunika Allen, a rising senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was crowned this year’s pageant winner.

Allen and her family are from Faith but now live in China Grove, she said while getting crowned.

Allen was one of 10 contestants, all of whom represented veterans organizations and rode in the parade.

Allen said it was a lot of fun to participate in the parade.

Asked what the pageant and the Faith Fourth festivities mean to her, Allen said she knows lots of veterans and hopes to represent them. Her boyfriend served in Afghanistan, she said, and her grandfather was in the Marine Corps.

Family, community and tradition

For many in attendance, there was a common idea of what the Faith Fourth parade and festivities mean. The celebration is more than just a time to honor and observe the country’s independence. It also celebrates community, family and tradition, they said.

Faith Fourth “is a tradition,” said Christie Fulk, a Faith resident.

The town is a “family community,” she said. During the July 4th festivities, it is warming to see kids come out and ride the rides, she said.

Fulk — who was with her daughter  — said she has been coming to the celebration since the 1980s. Her daughter, Lanie Fulk, said she started coming the year she was born.

Lanie Fulk said she enjoys being able to get off work at Faith Soda Shop and attend to the Fourth of July festivities with her friends. It’s something to look forward to, she said.

The Eller family said they have been coming to the Faith celebration for generations.

Claudine Eller said she remembers bringing her daughter and son to the parade when they were 3 and 4. Eller that she has been attending for 40 years.

Her son, Garry Michael Eller, said he has carried on the tradition, bringing his two sons. Garrison Eller, who is now 5, has been coming to the parade practically since he was born, his father said.

Garry Eller said he wouldn’t miss the parade.

“If you don’t come here, you are missing out,” he said.

He noted the sense of community, saying, “Everyone is here to look out for each other.”

The celebration is a way to let everyone know that you are proud of the Fourth of July, he said.

Mike Barringer, who is originally from Rowan County but now lives in Maryland, said he enjoys coming back because of the tradition.

“(Faith Fourth) is significant to our lives,” Barringer said. “This is home.”

Nick Freeman said he has been enjoying the celebration since he was a kid. Faith Fourth “is a traditional thing,” he said.

There’s a sense of “togetherness” at the celebration, he said, and it is great to see friends and family and have a break from the world’s problems.

Sandy Blair, Freeman’s girlfriend of two years, said the two had their first date at the Faith Fourth of July fair.

“It is always an honor to honor those who honored us,” said China Grove resident “Wild” Bill Corriher when asked what Faith’s Fourth of July celebration means.

Celebrations like this “make us thankful for what we got,” Corriher said.

Corriher said he remembers coming to the celebration for roughly 35 years.

Contact reporter Samuel Motley at 704-797-4264.