The party got started early in the day in Ellerbe, when hundreds had already gathered on the grounds of the Ellerbe Lions Club to take advantage of children’s play equipment, music, food and vendors.
“This is one of the more enjoyable things we do for this community,” said Ellerbe Lion’s President Ted Futrell sitting in a rocking chair on the music stage. “It’s definitely a labor of love.”
He said Ellerbe residents look forward to the Fourth of July celebration, where many are able to see people they haven’t seen since last year.
“People come here from South Carolina, Biscoe, Troy, Moore County, Anson County, and I’ve even seen some plates from out of state, from people who just happened to be here for July the 4th,” Futrell said.
He added that the money that is raised by the Lions Club goes toward efforts to help the blind.
“We also give to local schools, libraries, museums and charities,” said Lions Club member and former Ellerbe Mayor Lynn McCaskill.
There was also a splash park set up for the kids by the pond, where one of the more unique traditions of an Ellerbe Independence Day celebration took place - the children’s watermelon races. The kids line up at the top of the hill, and a watermelon is placed in a plastic tub at the bottom of the hill. The first one to grab the watermelon gets to keep it, but there are firemen spraying water from behind it that the kids have to get through.
Trinity Brown was one of the kids who ended up with a watermelon. She had a unique approach.
“I just dived right in,” she said, putting her hands above her head as if diving.
Down at the music stage, there was line-dancing as the afternoon wore on, and perhaps a hundred children played on the playground equipment that faced the stage.
Miss Senior North Carolina Sarah Daffron and first runner-up Joyce Santos were also on-hand.
“This is a great crowd, and there’s a true American spirit here,” Santos said, explaining she was conducting clogging demonstrations in both Ellerbe and Hamlet. “There’s been a lot of audience participation with our dance contests, from young and old alike.”
There were an excess of 4,000 or 5,000 on the grounds when the fireworks started shooting off shortly after 9 p.m. It lasted for 20-30 minutes.
In Hamlet Sunday, the crowds didn’t really begin to arrive until around 7 p.m., but there was quite a crowd assembled for the fireworks by dark, both at City Lake and on Main Street.
At the park, a new fountain sprayed water up from the pond directly in front of the red railcar beside the lake. It was installed during the week leading up to July the 4th.
At the Depot Park, DJ David Adiemy played beach and shag music for those in attendance.
At the Hamlet Lion’s Club grounds, Shannon Bowman and his fireworks crew from Albemarle was readying the fireworks at about 7:30 p.m.
“I’m right there beside them when they go off,” Joy Jennings explained. “I hand light them.”
Her son Jaxon explained that working with the fireworks is taxing on their ears.
“It’s just as loud to us as it is to them,” he explained. “Only we’re wearing earplugs.”
Hamlet Fire Chief David Knight explained there are actually two charges, first when the fireworks are shot from the ground, then again when they burst in the sky.
“It gets pretty loud for these guys,” he said.
The Hamlet display also lasted about 20 or 30 minutes, including a finale that featured dozens of consecutive blasts.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.