Not many places celebrate the Fourth of July like East Tennessee.
How many areas can claim they ring in Independence Day by launching anvils into the air with gun powder? Even more, who would expect a small town in the Smokies to be the first in all of the U.S. every year to kick off the Fourth of July?
Every year at the stroke of midnight since 1976, Gatlinburg has claimed 'first' for ringing in the Fourth of July with its Midnight Independence Day Parade.
Hundreds of people line the Parkway ahead of the parade, which starts exactly at midnight on July 4th. Even the fine folks in Washington, D.C. don't stay up that late to celebrate the anniversary of our nation's independence, making this a uniquely Gatlinburg tradition.
This year's parade will be a special one, celebrating the dedication and sacrifices of firefighters, first responders and law enforcement to recognize their heroism in the wildfires that claimed more than dozen lives last November. Gatlinburg named all of those who went to peoples' rescue during the wildfires as Grand Marshals for the midnight parade.
“For generations, we have shared our hometown with millions of visitors. This is an opportunity for our residents and visitors to come together to thank and salute our hometown heroes not just for their service to Gatlinburg last year, but for service to their communities every day,” said Mark Adams, CEO and President of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
As always, there will be plenty of music, fun and floats for people to enjoy. The United States Air Force Honor Guard Marching Military Unit from Washington, D.C. will march at midnight, as well as the 129th Army Band from Nashville and many others from across the U.S.
The 129th Army Band will also be holding a free concert Monday at 6:00 p.m. on Ripley's Aquarium Plaza.
After the parade, there will be plenty more to see and do in Gatlinburg, including the afternoon River Raft Regatta at Christ in the Smokies Bridge on River Road. Registration for that free event starts Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. at Christ in the Smokies.
And it just wouldn't be the Fourth of July without fireworks! There will be a 20-minute display in the heart of downtown. The city said the best places to watch from are on the Parkway between traffic lights #3 and #5. The 129th Army Band will put on a show before the show at 9:00 p.m. at Ripley's Aquarium Plaza.