Fittingly, Mount Airy’s Independence Day celebration started off with a patriotic fervor as the thousands lining Main Street stood and faced one of the hundreds of American flags and sang the National Anthem.
The singing of the Anthem followed a rousing recitation of the Declaration of Independence by master storyteller and musician Mike Lowe, who was dressed in period garb.
Hundreds of county residents and tourists gathered at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History for the reading of the Declaration, which reminded attendees of why the nation celebrates the holiday.
“… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security,” Lowe read.
While the city’s Fourth of July parade got under way more than a half-hour late, the delay did little to quell the anticipatory excitement of the crowd.
According to organizer and board member of the Downtown Business Association Phil Marsh, the delay was caused by a flat tire on one of the parade entries.
Marsh said other than the hiccup caused by the delay, the festivities went off without a hitch.
“I think it went great,” he said as he joined the crowd gathered in the courtyard of the museum for the second annual Pie Eating Contest. “Turnout for the parade was fantastic, and anytime you can get people downtown it’s a wonderful thing.”
This year’s parade featured Perry Robertson as grand marshal, who was given the honor after donating $45,000 for the construction of the city’s downtown mini-park at the corner of North Main and West Oak streets.
Robertson made the $45,000 donation in honor of a childhood friend killed in World War II, Carlos Warren Jones, and the old Blue Ridge Hotel where the two lived while working downtown as youths. The mini-park is being built near the hotel site and its design reflects the architecture of that establishment.
Friday’s parade also featured many military-themed entries, including the Marine Corps League, and the North Surry Junior Reserve Office Training Corps.
A surprise appearance by Mickey Mouse also had many of the young attendees squealing with laughter.
Marsh said the weather, which has been hot and muggy for days prior to the event, couldn’t have been better.
“We have a lot of sunshine and a cool breeze, so it’s just been wonderful,” he said.
For long-time Mount Airy resident and first-time attendee Bob Meinecke, the parade was eye-opening.
“I’ve lived in Mount Airy for 11 years and haven’t ever made it out to the parade before,” he said. “I can’t believe what I’ve been missing. This has just been a great event.
Many of those lining the parade route sported American flags provided by Bear Creek Gifts and Fudge Factory, which purchased thousands of flags to hand out to the crowd.
Following the parade, hundreds of onlookers gathered in the museum courtyard for the pie-eating contest, which was sponsored by Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies and benefited the Shepherd’s House homeless shelter.
The competition featured 36 competitors in three age brackets ranging from age one to adult.
In the end of the sticky, and often messy, competition, five-year-old Meghan Gunter took home the prize in the one-to-five-year-old division, while Jack Denny, 9, brought home the honor in the nine-12 year old category.
In the adult division, which featured an impromptu pie-in-the-face between Meinecke and Shepherd’s House Director Phil Goble Jr., Michael Pack, 13, showed his elders how a pie should be eaten.
The contest raised more than $1,000 for the homeless shelter, according to organizers.
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.