It might be the smallest municipality of Yadkin County, but East Bend puts on the largest Independence Day celebration with its annual God and Country celebration, held on Saturday. Residents and visitors began lining up on Main Street well before 8 a.m. in anticipation of the parade.
The tradition dates back to 1903 when buggy marker J.G. Huff organized a fiddlers convention and parade in honor of the July 4 holiday. A notable feature of that parade was a 17-foot violin, made to scale, that craftsmen from the buggy factory built.
In 2009, Hoke Matthews began entering a replica of this original violin. Matthews is one of the organizers who continues to host a bluegrass convention in Yadkin County each year. The float featuring the violin also includes bluegrass musicians who play throughout the procession.
The East Bend Volunteer Fire Department also hosted a parade in East Bend many years ago which included a horse show and a Fire Queen contest. The current incarnation of the event began in 1990 when a group of citizens worked to bring back the tradition. Honoring veterans and faith are important parts of the event, organizers said.
The informational booklet published each year prior to the God and Country celebration includes the names of local veterans. A local veteran also is often selected to serve as grand marshal for the parade. This year’s grand marshal was Gary Martin, a U.S. Army veteran. Martin is also a long-time member and past chief of the East Bend Volunteer Fire Department.
This year’s parade featured numerous fire trucks, classic cars, tractors, horses and floats from local churches, sports teams and local businesses.
Following the parade, the festivities continued on the grounds of East Bend Elementary School. The flag was raised and veterans were recognized and presented with a commemorative cap to mark the occasion. Martin also gave a few brief remarks thanking the committee for selecting him as grand marshal.
“There aren’t many times I get to ride through East Bend and wave at 1,000 of my friends. I enjoyed that,” Martin said.
Awards also were presented in several categories for parade floats. East Bend Friends Church float was recognized as Most Inspirational. The Best Theme honor was presented to Hoke Matthews for his Fiddlers Convention float. Best Youth Float was Camp Moose. Most Patriotic was awarded to Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Vendors with a variety of crafts and food were on hand throughout the event as well as live entertainment. A bouncy water slide was a popular activity for children. An evening service was held to close out the day and fireworks ended the celebration with a bang.
To have a veteran’s name included in next year’s God and Country booklet, email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.