The 37th annual Gatlinburg Fourth of July Midnight Parade will honor American heroes, with grand marshals for the parade including members of the Tuskegee Airman Association from Atlanta, Ga. and from Louisville, Ky., plus military personnel and veterans from all five branches of service.
Among the U.S. Heroes being honored will be Robert Youngdeer and Rueben Taylor, two distinguished World War II veterans from Cherokee, N.C. Both Cherokee Warriors permanently reside on the Cherokee Reservation and are still active in Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143.
As many as 100,000 spectators are expected to witness the parade, which since 1976 is renowned as the first Independence Day Parade in the United States. Dozens of parade units will line up on the night of July 3 and step off at the stroke of midnight.
Leading the parade will be the 100th Army Band from Fort Knox, Ky., which will not only march in the parade, but will also showcase various sectional groups in concerts on the plaza at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies throughout the day of July 4, culminating in a full band concert leading into Gatlinburg’s spectacular fireworks display.
Soldiers first, musicians second, the 100th Army Band has traveled the world to present its high-quality professional musical entertainment. The band includes several combo components – a jazz band, brass quartet, rock band, and more. Each member of the band receives the same combative training and is expected to have the same military abilities demonstrated by other Army personnel.
Each of the band’s July 4th performances at the Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza will be free-admission. Also performing on the Plaza during July 4 festivities will be the Burlington Teen Tour Band from Burlington, Ontario, Canada.
Check out the parade route early to choose your best observation spot as some of the tens of thousands of spectators will start placing their folding chairs along the route as early as 7 a.m. on July 3.
“This will be one of the most patriotic and colorful midnight parades that the City of Gatlinburg has ever produced,” said Special Events Manager George Hawkins, who organized the first Gatlinburg 4th of July parade in 1976 in celebration of America’s Bicentennial. "We are very excited about the entire weekend of events, which will include a two-day festival highlighting our armed services.”
This year’s fun-filled Fourth of July celebration in Gatlinburg will again feature the always-competitive River Raft Regatta, the unmanned kind. Anything floatable can be entered, with registration starting at 10 a.m. at the Christ in the Smokies bridge on River Road. There will be prizes for the top three places in these divisions: Hand-made Decorated, Floatable Object (no creativity), Small Entry (pill bottle sized), Oldest Entry, Youngest Entry, Judges Choice (or most unique), Ripley’s Believe It or Not Entry. This unique race begins at noon on July 4th.
A spectacular fireworks display will begin at 10 p.m. – following the 100th Army Band concert – and will be visible throughout the downtown area.