By David Rogers. July 6, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Just when you thought Main Street couldn’t hold any more people for a 4th of July Parade, Blowing Rock outdid itself. Given the rain showers within a half hour of the start time, the early crowd was relatively light — but by the time it reached full throttle, they had all come out of the proverbial woodwork to celebrate in grand, even raucous style.
All that was missing Saturday afternoon was a marching band playing Stars & Stripes Forever. Otherwise, there was plenty of pomp and circumstance — and lots of red, white, blue, sparkling silver and gold.
There were also poignant moments, such as when the World War II Veterans rode by in a flag-and-bunting bedecked, open bed trailer. Their stern, sharply grizzled visages belying what they saw and heard in earlier chapters of their respective lives. The crowd roared its approval as one stood, leaned intently forward, and waved his outstretched hand in acknowledgment. As a photographer click-click-clicked to capture the images, the solemn voice of a woman behind him observed, “They get fewer each year, don’t they?” It was more a statement of fact than a question.
For many long-time Blowing Rock residents, there was an emotional moment toward the end when the antique Blowing Rock Fire Department engine drove by with Emergency Service Director Kent Graham at the wheel, his family beside him. Draped across the right side rear of the fire truck was the old gray-brown uniform with simple lettering, “BRFD” across the shoulders and “J. Burns” in big letters across the back.
It was the long-worn jacket of Jerry Burns, one of the many volunteer firemen who at one time served the Town of Blowing Rock before the current professional staff replaced them. Burns was Editor of the Blowing Rocket newspaper for more than four decades and widely regarded as “Mr. Blowing Rock” because of his service on so many local boards and what some described as his “town cheerleader” brand of community journalism.
There were familiar faces, too. Kids whose pictures we take every year in just about the same spot, those familiar faces perched atop ever-larger torsos as the years advance. Yes, we remember when you were half as tall!
Rockwellian Americana at its finest, this was the parade of parades, perfectly timed between afternoon and evening cloudbursts. The weather gods must never stand in the way of town council members and other politicians having their moment in the sun. It is election — and reelection — year, after all. And riding along with Mayor Charlie Sellers in that ol’ Cadillac was an iconic Blowing Rock businesswoman, ninety-something Helen Telenkamp.
It was also a promotional opportunity for many special events, from the Tractor Show later this month to the increasingly popular Blowing Rock Rotary Charity Auction on August 17th at the American Legion Building.
Business owners and their employees celebrated a year of prosperity or accomplishment from the sustainability-conscious 4 Forty Four Construction, driving all-electric Teslas powered from solar energy, to the one-of-a-kind Chetola Mountain Resort. A highlight? Seeing young local golfer Macy Pate, who just two weeks ago earned “first alternate” status to the USGA Girls Golf Championship in Wisconsin, behind the wheel of a golf cart to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of Boone Golf Club.
Local resident John Aldridge, AKA children’s book author Jonathan Graves, was seen driving his ubiquitous golf cart, posters for the latest small fry tome, “Isabella Propeller and the Bully Woolie” plastered on the sides and front.
Surely that was Uncle Sam himself riding the big Harley Davidson, celebrating the opportunity, “Born to be Wild.”
Did we mention the winsome lasses? No 4th of July Parade in Blowing Rock would be complete without them, whether waving from a float or clogging in perfect unison with fellow team members, hips swaying, arms waving and toes a-tapping.
There were ample reminders, too, of pressing needs. Toward the end of the parade, a Watauga County school bus had its sides used as big message boards for the noblest of all causes: education for our young people, even for families that are struggling to send their children to campuses and classrooms with the basic necessities in terms of supplies. The non-profit, Back To School Festival organization served nearly 1300 Watauga County students last year, providing backpacks in which to carry books and supplies, athletic shoes for P.E. class (a requirement), and notebooks, pens, and pencils. “Pack The Bus” is now almost a decade old — and gets bigger each year. And the need has never been greater: often overlooked amidst the many pockets of High Country affluence is the simple realization that over a third of Watauga County students are on full or partial meal support plans and that the county has the third lowest household income in North Carolina. If you agree that education is the surest way out of poverty and a cornerstone of democratic processes, give and give generously to the Back to School Festival this summer.
A parade always offers an abundance of picture-perfect moments to capture, and Saturday was no exception. See a fellow photographer as he sees you? Create some laughter along the street with dueling cameras!
As every year, Saturday’s 4th of July Parade in Blowing Rock was a resounding success, again — and the growing crowds collectively endorse that assessment.
SLIDESHOW by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News