Fourth of July
Morgan County celebrates Independence Day with festivities
story by Jessica Blomquist
file photos by Angelina Bellebuono
Come experience small town America at its finest this Fourth of July.
Madison, and the surrounding towns of Rutledge, Bostwick, and Buckhead are all hosting events from which to choose to celebrate America’s 232nd birthday. Start by gathering for a picnic on the front lawn of the Cultural Center for patriotic music, then chow down on some traditional barbecue, take part in some good old-fashioned fun, and finally, as the last light of the sun disappears over the horizon and night falls, 'ooh' and 'ahh' over a booming fireworks show as rockets burst high above in dazzling blooms of color.
The Fourth of July festivities begin on Thursday, July 3 at 7 p.m., as the Cultural Center hosts "Splendor in the Brass," the finale to the Chamber Music Festival. The concert, featuring the Atlanta Symphony Brass Quintet, will serve as a patriotic backdrop for those who gather to picnic on the front lawn of the Cultural Center. Stick around after the free event to watch the Madison Fireworks at Heritage Park, which can be seen from the lawn.
The Morgan County Recreation Department is sponsoring an event at Heritage Park starting at 6 p.m. on July 3. Adult contemporary radio station Lake Oconee’s Dock 103.9 will play at the event while those who attend take part in face painting, badminton, karaoke, inflatable playscapes and other games. Bring a picnic supper to enjoy and at dark, city personnel will shoot off the annual fireworks show, which will last around 30 minutes and conclude with a gigantic finale.
On July 4, the Rutledge community holds their annual antique tractor parade, which Rena Holt describes as “a large, patriotic, flag-waving tractor parade.” The parade will begin at 11 a.m. on Keencheefoonee Road near the Centennial Baptist Church and will follow a two and a half to three-mile route. Traffic and parking issues from previous years have been remedied with the Rotary Club helping direct the flow of traffic.
Afterwards, head to the seventh annual Sunflower Festival in Rutledge at Rena and Wes Holt’s farm located on Durden Road. The festival lasts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both July 4 and July 5. Visitors to the farm pay $5 for general admission and children 12-years-old and younger are admitted for free. Veterans are also allowed in free of charge. The farm will hold a Tribute to Independence Day ceremony on July 4 at 9:30 a.m. with a flag raising, a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by Shelby McLeod and recognition of veterans. Visitors will find plenty to do at the farm as well, including “pick your own” bouquets of sunflowers or zinnias for $10, which includes a vase in which visitors can fit as many flowers as possible. The farm features 15 acres of sunflowers from which to cut a bouquet. The Sunflower Festival also includes a large artist’s market with featured artists from the community. Visitors can also tour two historic houses, the 1811 House and the Sharecropper’s House, which was built in 1890, and the surrounding gardens. Kids have many activities to take part in as well: hayrides, pony rides, a petting zoo, and a tour through the enchanted forest, a nature trail for children to explore. Hungry visitors can dine on barbecue, hot dogs, hamburgers, homemade ice cream and other delicious fare. The Rutledge Garden Club will also be serving thick, cold slices of ripe red watermelon.
For the really hungry Fourth of July reveler, the town of Bostwick hosts a more than 50-year-old tradition of all-you-can-eat pork barbecue prepared by the Bostwick Fire Department and Wellington Masonic Lodge #467. The barbecue will be served from noon to 2 p.m. at Riden’s Grove in downtown Bostwick. All-you-can-eat plates cost $10 for adults and $5 for children. The proceeds go to pay for equipment for the fire department and for charitable projects hosted by the Masonic Lodge. Fire chief Bill Cofer expects 1,000 to 2,000 people to come enjoy the ten large pots of stew, served with sweet tea, sides and dessert.
To top off the Fourth of July celebration, the Buckhead Fire Department will serve their traditional barbecued chicken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., for $7 a plate. Arrive early at 4 p.m. to play games, take a shot at the dunking booth, play bingo and bounce around in an inflatable moonwalk. Raffle tickets will also be sold for $1 to win prizes. After eating, watch fireworks explode over the Bostwick water tower.
The following day, July 5, the Holt’s sunflower farm and the local American Cancer Society are hosting Cruise for a Cure, a decorated golf cart parade at 11 a.m. to raise money for cancer research. Those wishing to participate in the parade to honor someone’s memory or someone suffering from cancer must register by July 1 and pay the $10 entrance fee. Two awards will be given based on the best-decorated golf cart and the group that raised the most money.
Finally, if you haven’t seen enough fireworks during the Fourth of July weekend, go to the Centennial Baptist Church in Rutledge on July 5 for a free and fun family event, the Starlight Spectacular. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. with hot dogs, snow cones, popcorn and cotton candy. Register for door prizes by 9 p.m. to win Wal-Mart and gas gift cards valued from $50 to $250 and gift certificates to local restaurants. At dark, celebrate the final evening of a weekend of Independence Day festivities by enjoying a professional fireworks display.