By Angie Long
The Greenville Advocate
Last Friday, July 4, was a summer holiday made to order — just what Francine Wasden asked for.
The executive director of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce was all smiles as Celebrate America got underway at Greenville High School’s Tiger Stadium.
The annual event, co-sponsored by the City of Greenville and area businesses, offered a hometown Independence Day celebration complete with festive foods, face painting, blast-from-the-past tunes, hula hooping, Frisbee flying and a big fireworks display to cap off the evening.
With a slight dip in the mercury coupled with low humidity and clear skies, this year’s Celebrate America was a stark contrast with some previous events where high winds, heavy rains and lightning stalled or even canceled the festivities.
“You simply couldn’t ask for a nicer day here this time of year,” Wasden said at the Chamber tent, where her husband Ray was using a handy-dandy device to slice juicy watermelons into free portions easy for attendees to handle.
Folks could also purchase treats such as hot dogs, ices, and an array of tempting baked goods from vendors including Flurry Ice, the Fort Dale Academy dance team, the Greenville Parks and Recreation Department and the Greenville YMCA.
Red discs went flying across the football field courtesy of Ken Harrison, manager of Walgreen’s, who passed them out to attendees.
The inflatable water slide and bouncy castle from Air Jumpz drew lines of youngsters throughout the evening, while adults and kids alike enjoyed visiting the Life Flight helicopter parked just outside the fence. Dr. Sam of Bama Country WBAM 98.9 presided over the festivities, leading the crowd in performing to “YMCA” and “The Wobble.” Eager fans clamored to catch one of the Taylor Swift t-shirts or Bama Country koozies tossed from the stage.
Kimberly Matthews, manning the Butler County Humane Society booth, praised the Montgomery disc jockey for giving regular shout-outs to the organization as well as other vendors and sponsors.
“We appreciate everyone helping us care for these animals,” Matthews said.
While the number of people filling the stands was down this year, Wasden noted an increase elsewhere.
“We had a lot more folks down on the field. With the Frisbee giveaway by Walgreen’s, and the Air Jumpz, kids were able to run and play and really work off some steam,” Wasden said.
“And that’s what we want to see. Families coming out to enjoy the holiday together, food, fun, music, in a safe environment, right here in town.”
And while she sees this year’s event as a success, Wasden envisions an even bigger and better Celebrate America in the years to come.
“I would love to see vendors entirely circling this field — food, hand-made items, services, all kinds of things to offer to our folks,” she said.