The largest event in East Bend each year is returning for its 22nd year. The East Bend God and Country Celebration will take place at East Bend Elementary School June 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with fireworks beginning at approximately 9:30 p.m.
This year’s celebration will see some changes to years past. Activities for families and children will be closing up at 4 p.m. and evening musical entertainment will begin at 6 p.m.
“We decided to do it that way because of the heat,” said Wanda Hall, God and Country committee member. “In the previous years people didn’t seem to want to hang around because of the heat. We thought that maybe if they knew it wasn’t going to last all day they would be willing to stay until it was over.”
This year the festival will feature the annual parade, which will begin at 9:30 a.m.
Anyone wishing to participate in the parade should arrive at the East Bend Baptist Church from the entrance on N. C.67 at 9 a.m.
The parade’s Grand Marshall this year will be Marine Sergeant Nathan Harris. Harris has been deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Fallujah, Iraq.
He has served in the Marines since 2002 and was severely wounded in action in 2009. His story has been documented in the Oscar nominated film ‘Hell and Back Again’ this year.
Following the parade the school grounds will open featuring concessions, crafts rides and activities. Mikaley Lane will be the first live performance of the day.
“We’ll have a water slide, bouncing castles, a petting zoo, pony rides and crafts for the kids,” said Hall. “There are about eight food vendors this year and the volunteer fire department always has homemade ice cream.”
At 11:30 a.m. there will be a service featuring the raising of the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the National Anthem by Rebecca Swaim.
A veteran’s service will be held during which all veterans present will be publicly honored and given a gift from the town. The parade winners will also be announced at this time.
The Sassy Seniors will take the stage from there. The seniors are a line dance group from East Bend that has won honors on a state level. Several other live musicians will grace the stage between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The festivities will wrap up at 4 p.m. and will resume in the auditorium of East Bend Elementary School with a performance by the gospel group The Harvesters at 6 p.m.
Fireworks are set to begin at approximately 9:30 p.m.
“The traffic is pretty bad that night,” Hall said. “I would advise if you were planning to sit in your car to come early. There will be people directing traffic that evening.”
All events during the celebration are free to the public and everyone is encouraged to come. East Bend town officials want to remind attendees to bring their lawn chairs, blankets and coolers for the fireworks display. No alcohol is allowed throughout the event and participants are asked to respect the grounds and other residents by not bringing pets to the event.
“It’s grown a lot since we first started it and I guess it’s because people always know that it’s going to be that Saturday before July 4th and people look forward to it and plan for it,” Hall said. “We always have a good time and people just come together to socialize.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.