Church Hill Mayor Dennis Deal, center, helps prepare the barbecue at a past Community Celebration. The free barbecue is contributed to the event by the city every year. (photos by Sheldon Livesay)
(Scroll down for a photo gallery of scenes from a past Church Hill Community Celebration. Photos courtesy of Sheldon Livesay.)
CHURCH HILL — Even if your wallet is empty, there’s no excuse for anyone walking away from the seventh annual Church Hill Community Celebration on Saturday evening with an empty stomach.
The festival, which takes up the entire Church Hill Shopping Center and adjoining property between Highway 11-W and Main Boulevard, features a combination of live entertainment, games for children of all ages, and other activities that are either informational, fun or both.
But one thing that sets the Church Hill Community Celebration apart from other festivals in the region is the price of the food.
There isn’t one.
Everything is free while supplies last, including barbecue sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, pizza, roasted corn on the cob, funnel cakes, popcorn, cotton candy, and cold water and soft drinks.
The main events begin at 5 p.m. and continue until about 9.
Event co-organizer Shirley Stapleton said a lot of different churches, businesses and civic organizations as well as the city chipped in to provide free food and entertainment for the community Saturday evening.
“The celebration was started when some members from two churches got together and came up with the idea, and then the city joined up with the businesses and the community,” Stapleton said. “Now we have businesses participating, civic organizations, the city, and last year we had 27 churches. What happens is each of them contributes something. That’s why all the food we serve is free, and we serve until we run out.
“Everything is good, but funnel cakes seem to be the favorite,” she added. “They served 2,600 funnel cakes last year and had to break up the line with about 30 people still in line when they ran out.”
Although the celebration itself doesn’t officially start until 5 p.m., there are activities all day in Church Hill.
There’s a 5K run/walk beginning at Derrick Park on Saturday morning, with proceeds to benefit the Church Hill Free Clinic. Registration begins at 7 a.m., and the run/walk begins at 9 a.m.
Between 9 and 10 a.m., food and music are offered up at Derrick Park, and the run/walk awards celebration is at 10:15 a.m.
There is a car show beginning at noon at Church Hill Shopping Plaza, which also will include live music and games for children all afternoon, and a pig roast.
As for the celebration itself, Stapleton said organizers wanted to have something for folks of all ages to enjoy. Children get an extensive play area with inflatables and games. Older kids, young adults and even adventurous old-timers might enjoy taking a whirl on the mechanical bull.
There are also two stages at the celebration in addition to the car show stage. The main stage features local live musical acts or dance performances all night, while the second stage is reserved for karaoke.
Stapleton advises folks to bring their lawn chairs if they want to sit and stay awhile.
“Our goal was to have people come together in a good spiritual atmosphere with good clean fun for the whole family,” she added.
A few other features of the Church Hill Community Celebration include:
• A health fair in the Senior Citizen Center for screening children’s hearing and vision, among other things. Last year the health fair served more than 700 children.
• The introduction of the 2013 Volunteer High School football team at 7:30 p.m. at the main stage, followed by an “Evening Run” featuring the Falcons track team and anyone from the public who wants to join in. Details for early registration can be found at the celebration’s information booth.
• A number of booths manned by civic organizations and businesses providing information as well as free drawings and games.