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Patriotic Fourth of July parade wraps up return of festivities in downtown Faith

FAITH — After attending the Faith Fourth of July parade for the first time two years ago, Doug Steele and his family were back on Monday morning to enjoy the festivities again.

“The patriotism that we experienced two years ago was the main reason we came back,” said Steele, a U.S. Navy veteran.

With thousands of people decked out in red, white and blue lining the streets of downtown Faith, there was an abundance of patriotic spirit on display during the parade for the town’s 75th Fourth of July celebration. The roughly two-hour procession was the climatic moment after a week of festivities, including a carnival, musical performances, fireworks and fun-filled competitions.

After a COVID-19 break in 2020, there were 200 entries in the parade this year — the most in the history of the event, according to parade organizer Laura Evans.

“Everybody was really excited to be back doing the Fourth of July celebration,” Evans said. “Everybody had to stay home last year, so everybody was excited to come out and show their patriotism.”

To pay homage to those who have helped host the weeklong celebration for decades, the grand marshal of the parade was actually a collection volunteers who have spent more than two decades volunteering at the event, which began an annual tradition starting in 1946. The honorees rode through downtown Faith on a sparkling blue float.

“I was so moved because, as they went by, it was like a wave traveling through the crowd,” Evans said. “Everybody stood and clapped and saluted. It was so amazing.”

The backdrop of the float featured the names of those who helped organize and host the Fourth of July celebration who have died in the previous decade.

In addition to the grand marshal float, there were bagpipe players, politicians waving from boats and sports cars, dancers putting on a tap performance on a moving stage and plenty of people dressed in ghoulish garb promoting local haunted attractions. There were also participants dressed as soldiers from the Revolutionary, Civil and World wars. A band of re-enactors wearing Confederate uniforms fired guns into the air and handed out fans and stickers bearing the Confederate flag.

Float-riders tossed beads, candy and other small prizes, but the most popular treats were paper fans and popsicles, which were gladly accepted by spectators watching the parade in the heat. One float, Evans said, handed out more than 2,000 popsicles before even finishing its route.

Faith Academy and the Sons of the American Revolution took home the top two prizes for best floats.

While Ann Brady said she was excited to see all of the floats, the main car she wanted see was the one carrying her daughter, Kristen Brady. Kristen, who rode through downtown in a white Jeep, was representing Harold B. Jarrett American Legion Post No. 342 in the Miss Rowan County Veteran competition.

Ann Brady, who was raised in Faith but now lives near Salisbury, said she has been coming to the parade since she was a young girl. She even rode on a float while she was in high school.

“My family lived back up Gantt Street, so we’d walk down here, hang out and love on all of the families, people, friends that would come back every year,” Brady said. “It’s like a big family reunion is what it is.”

Brady said she still tries to attend the parade as much as possible, and always enjoys seeing familiar faces who have come back to town.

“No matter where people go in the United States, they always seem to make it back here,” Brady said.

What makes the parade special, Brady said, is that there is a “lot of love for the town, for the people and for our country.”

Brady was one of thousands who filled the town of about 800 on Monday morning. While the parade crowd was substantial, Evans said it wasn’t the biggest the town has ever seen.

“Having it on Monday and it being the fifth and some people having to work, I think there wasn’t as big of a crowd as there has been,” Evans said.

Andrew Welch, the owner of Faith Soda Shop, said he was impressed be the turnout.

“It’s great to have everybody back,” Welch said. “I believe this is one of the largest crowds that’s been here, definitely since last year was nonexistent, but I think this is still one of the biggest crowds in the last few years anyway. It’s great seeing everything come back to normal.”

Carla Linker took the day off of work so she could be in Faith for the parade. Linker was raised in Faith and remembers watching the floats pass by from her home on Main Street. Even though she no longer lives in the town, she tries not to miss the event.

“I made sure I could be here,” Carla Linker said. “In 45 years, I think I’ve missed just a few parades.”

Carla Linker watched this year’s parade with her daughter, Hailey, who brought son Westyn Reash to see the floats and festivities. Like her mom, Hailey grew up watching the parade every year. Carla Linker said she’s excited to continue that custom with her children.

“It’s nice that my mom started the tradition with me and now I’m bringing it on with my kids,” Hailey said.

Following the parade, Bailey Webster of Faith American Legion Post No. 327 was crowned as Miss Rowan County Veteran. The carnival remained open for the rest of the day Monday. An egg toss, hotdog and watermelon eating competitions and a performance by the band Too Much Sylvia were scheduled for Monday night. The weeklong celebration was set to conclude with a firework show at 10:30 p.m.

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