Sullivan South color guard member Cathy Rayble marches in the Mack Riddle American Legion 59th Annual Independence Day Parade Wednesday. David Grace photo.
KINGSPORT — Thousands of spectators lined the route of the 59th annual Mack Riddle American Legion Fourth of July Parade, amidst what some described as “perfect” weather early Wednesday.
The parade, an Independence Day tradition in the Model City since the mid-20th century, continues to rank as one of the largest in the state and attracts onlookers from near and far, often including multiple generations of a family who come early to get their favorite spot each year.
As always, patriotism — with an emphasis on honoring the nation’s veterans — took center stage as the parade’s more than 100 entries marched, walked or rolled past the crowds.
A group of World War II veterans served as grand marshals.
The parade, managed by the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, was presented by Alpha Natural Resources.
Later in the day, after a thundershower passed through the area, the action moved to downtown Kingsport.
From mid-afternoon until dusk a steady stream of people streamed into the Broad Street area, where a series of events culminated with a fireworks display at 9:45 p.m.
The Downtown Kingsport Association Fourth of July Celebration, featuring children’s activities, live entertainment, food vendors and the only sanctioned fireworks in town, has become the place to be in the Model City after the parade.
Rain passed through downtown between about 3:30 and 4 p.m., but the sun popped back out within an hour, and with it came crowds.
By 8 p.m., small and large clusters of folks could also be found blocks away from Broad Street — sitting on downed tailgates, lawn chairs, or blankets on the ground — but all looking toward Cement Hill, launching point for the fireworks.
Live musical performances included Mark Larkins and The Catalinas.
Numerous other parades, celebrations and fireworks displays were scheduled throughout the region, including Blountville, Rogersville and Johnson City.
In non-city portions of Sullivan County, fireworks sales — at temporary tents as well as permanent locations — appeared brisk, although not perhaps as busy as last year.
At midafternoon, the parking lot of a fireworks store in Blountville — where the sale of fireworks is legal year-round — was easy to navigate. Most cars had Sullivan County license plates, with Virginia plates coming in a close second. But multiple other states were represented, too.
Most buyers seemed to be shopping as a group — and many grabbed a shopping cart as soon as they entered.
The choices — in product and price — ran the gamut, from individual items for less than $1 to pre-packaged boxes offering a mixture of fireworks to create a multi-faceted display, with prices more than $100.
Among items promoted as “New for 2012” were: “Shake N Bake” (“Warning: Shoots Flaming Balls”); “Whack Job” (“Warning: Shoots Flaming Balls”); and “Fire In The Hole” (“Warning: Shoots Flaming Balls”).
Throughout the day, before and after dark, law enforcement agencies throughout the region were dispatched on numerous complaint calls about fireworks — the sale or use of which is illegal and/or regulated in many jurisdictions.