Valerie Webster crowned Miss Rowan County Veteran during Faith Fourth celebration

Published 12:10 am Thursday, July 6, 2023

FAITH — Keeping the crown in the family, outgoing Miss Rowan County Veteran crowned her sister Valerie Webster as the 2023 queen during Tuesday’s Fourth of July celebration in Faith.

Valerie Webster was the contestant representing Faith American Legion 327, and the runner up was Emma Blackwell, representing VFW Post 9134.

All seven contestants went through judging over the weekend on information including their current education, future education and life plans, and how they believed they could help Rowan County veterans going forward. Webster, like all who wear the crown, will be expected to participate with local veteran organizations, in particular their sponsors, as well as represent veterans in the Veterans Day parade.

Valerie Webster

“This is not a beauty contest,” noted emcee Kaye Hirst. “This about who they are as young women and what they can contribute to the veteran community.”

Hurst brought all of the candidates to the stage to introduce themselves following the singing of the national anthem by Carson High School student Cheyenne Talley. In addition, Hurst introduced several state and federal American Legion dignitaries as well as Faith Mayor Randall Barger, who gave the welcome following the parade.

On Tuesday, Faith culminated almost a full week of activities honoring Independence Day and veterans with the annual parade and the crowning of the winner of the competition, followed by more musical performances, more rides and more food from participating food trucks and organizations.

“We had great weather, though it was hot,” said Barger. “We really had a great week, and I’d say we broke even with last year or maybe even did a little better.”

The parade kicked off with a flyover from the N.C. State Highway Patrol helicopter, followed by numerous fire and emergency vehicles. There were a number of professional and amateur floats that competed for best in show. In the professional category, Tabernacle Church won, and in the amateur category, Halon Salon, which had riders squirting water guns at attendees, won, and the water was a bit of a welcome cool down.

The parade is essentially self-sustaining, Barger explained, because the money raised from rides and food trucks who participate helps pay for things like electricity, security and clean up. Any additional profits are divided between the three veteran organizations who sponsor the event, and they in turn share the money among as many as 140 organizations and charities in and around Faith.

The event sponsors, which this year included presenting sponsor Wade Shows, Inc, which is the company that provides the rides and entertainment, and title sponsors Brent and Patti Lyerly, cover the cost of the musical performances and bands, said Barger, which typically cost around $16,000. Barger himself does the securing of sponsors for the bands, he said, but “none of the money goes to the town. In fact, the only involvement the town has is granting the permit.”

Last year, in response to concern about some of the participants in the parade and the displays of the Confederate flag, a letter-writing campaign was initiated and a number of the larger sponsors, including Duke Energy, Food Lion and Novant Health pulled their support.

“That didn’t hurt us,” said Barger, “it hurt the people who benefit from the organizations, but even there, we didn’t lose anything. And we have always been about inclusion.” This year the Confederate re-enactment group and the Sons of the Confederacy were again participants, but so were organizations with messages like “Love is Love” and who were flying rainbow flags. “And we are happy to have them,” Barger said.

He didn’t have an exact number of how many attended, but he did say it was “the largest group at the ball field for the fireworks I’ve ever seen.”

Barger said the town has no intention of stopping the events, though he did say organizers are “getting older, and I worry about who will step in to help it carry on. I hope that Faith Academy will decide to take it over and make it a fundraiser for them.”

But in the meantime, he said the celebration, which started in 1902 as a way of honoring veterans, will carry on.