Sparklers, spangles, salutes and serenades

A little history for ya: Though America's autonomy from Britain was declared on July 4, 1776, Independence Day wasn't an official holiday until 1870.

But government-sanctioned or not, celebrations of the signing of the Declaration of Independence (which most delegates actually signed on August 2, 1776,  according to The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas) started as early as 1777, with 13-gun salutes, speeches, parades and fireworks.

Here's a nice nod to North Carolina's role in the holiday: In 1783, Moravians in Salem (the historic village remains in today's Winston-Salem), held a celebration on July 4 with a music program that included "The Psalm of Joy." "Salem held a reverent celebration to thank God for the restoration of peace, and to express loyalty to the new American government," explains the Home Moravian Church Web site.

So music, gun salutes, fireworks, parades — all of that has been around since the beginning. Not so much the rest of the tacked-on customs. Take the hot dog. Sausages predate the United States by centuries; sausages served on rolls can be traced to the 1880s and, says Oxford English Dictionary contributor Barry Popik, the earliest use of the term "hot dog" was in the September 28, 1893, Knoxville Journal.

Hula-hooping, water-balloon fights, three-legged races, watermelon-seed-spitting contests, homemade-ice-cream cranking, Uncle-Sam-lookalike competitions and the dressing of pets in American-flag-print costumes: These are all recent additions to the 4th of July pomp and circumstance.

Whether you're a stickler for tradition or a fan of the holiday's gaudier, spanglier aspects, Xpress has the low-down on where to proclaim your patriotism.

Pre-fourth festivities:

• Get all statesmanlike: Flat Rock Playhouse presents For the Glory — The Civil War Musical, a look at the ordinary people who experienced extraordinary things in the name of U.S. freedom. The show runs through Sunday, July 4 (8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), and benefits the Park Ridge Hospital Foundation. $40.

• The 43rd annual Mountaineer Antique Auto Car Show takes place over three days — Friday, July 2 through Sunday, July 4 — at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. Highlights: hundreds of classic cars, trucks and street rods, a 400-space car corral, a 1,100-booth flea market and concessions. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. $5.

• "Come catch the hometown spirit," suggests Brevard's town website. Apparently spirit starts early, like at 8 a.m. on Saturday, July 3, with the 5K/10K Firecracker Run (check in is between 6:30 and 7:45 a.m.). The Humane Society hosts its All Star Pet Show (registration at 8:45 a.m., judging at 9:30 a.m.)

The all-day festivities include the 38th Annual Fine Arts & Crafts Showcase, a classic car show, a bicycle parade, children's activities (face painting, a balloon artist and inflatables), a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a deck race for kids at 5 p.m. and fireworks at Brevard College at 9:30 p.m. Info:

• The annual Montreat Parade returns, beginning at 10 a.m. in downtown Montreat. Info: 669-8002.

• Waynesville's Stars and Stripes Celebration runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 3. Shops, galleries and restaurants open along Main Street, with music and sidewalk sales. Info:

• Back in Black Mountain it's the Southern Revival BBQ & Beer Festival, held at the Pisgah Brewing Company (150 Eastside Dr., Black Mountain). Southern rock from Velvet Truckstop, Soulgrass Rebellion, Scenic Roots, Woody Wood and others. Noon-9 p.m., $10 advance/$15 door. Tickets at

• In Barnardsville it's the Big Bang. The celebration begins at 1 p.m. with a parade from Barnardsville Elementary School to the Big Ivy Community Center. Stay for music, hot dogs and barbeque, and fireworks at dark.

Fourth of July:

• Fiery fiddle, anyone? A week of workshops on traditional song and fiddle, as part of Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College, kicks off. Instructors include Casey Driessen, April Verch, Ben Sollee and Jamie Laval; the first class of the session is at 9 a.m. (Even if you're not attending Fiddle Week, check out the 7:30 p.m. staff concerts on the Warren Wilson campus — traditional song on Monday, July 5; Fiddle "Caberet" on Tuesday, July 6; fiddle concert on Wednesday, July 7.)

• What could be more holiday-theme-appropriate, music-wise, than Asheville's Firecracker Jazz Band? Okay, so the whole band isn't on the bill, but Luella's Bar-B-Que has Firecracker's guitarist/banjo player Jon Corbin performing from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Info:

• Buncombe's Multi Purpose Athletic Complex (MPAC) hosts a July 4th Block Party with live music, a poetry slam, storytelling, sports demos and more. The party takes place at North Buncombe High School's practice soccer field from noon-10 p.m.; the lineup is: T-bone's Kids at noon, Buyaka at 1 p.m., Galen Kipar Project at 2:45 p.m., Chris O'Neill, Jay Sanders and Billy Cardine at 4:30 p.m., Afromotive at 6:15 p.m., Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band at 8 p.m., Richard Schulman Jazz at 10 p.m. 

Here's more on what to expect: "Lyric poets Pasckie Pascua (Traveling Bonfies), Roberto Hess and many others will read and hold a poetic slam. … A taste of PUSH Asheville Fashion Runway Show will be held on stage, sports and movement demonstrations will be ongoing throughout the day, three color guards will present, and Allyson MacCauley will sing the national anthem to Asheville's fireworks … We discovered last year that the venue has perfect view of Asheville's display of fireworks! Thus, folks can see Asheville's fireworks with no traffic hassle, tons of free parking and way better music." Info:

• Hendersonville's Fourth of July Festival is held in Jackson Park. The afternoon includes crafters, food, children's activities, an antique car show, a wrestling show, music by country singer Matt Stillwell, a fireworks display and more. 2 p.m.

• The town of Black Mountain rings in Independence Day with fireworks, street dancing, food and fun (not necessarily in that order). Held in downtown Black Mountain. The WOXL house band plays oldies. No admission fee; festivities run from 5-9 p.m. followed by fireworks.

• Buncombe County Parks, Greenways and Recreation Services hosts the annual fireworks display at Lake Julian. Bring a lawn chair or blanket; parking is at Estes Elementary School across Long Shoals Road from the Lake Julian Park Entrance. The fireworks begin at dark. Info:

• For a different sort of fireworks-viewing experience, join the annual fireworks hike and picnic, which leaves from the Swannanoa Valley Museum. The museum says, "This is an ideal time for families to share some good, old-fashioned Independence Day fun, complete with hot dogs and watermelon, and watch the Black Mountain fireworks show from a different viewpoint — from above!" $20 for Museum members, $30 for non-members. Children under 12 are free.

• Downtown Asheville's celebration returns to Pack Square this year. Head downtown at 4 p.m. for family friendly activities, food vendors, live music and fireworks at 9:30 p.m.

• Up for one more show? Local Americana band Sons of Ralph plays Jack of the Wood as part of the venue's "Three nights of partyin' in a row." (Firecracker Jazz Band plays Friday, July 2; Delta Moon is on stage Saturday, July 3.)

Know of other ways to celebrate? Post them at

Alli Marshall can be reached at

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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3 thoughts on “Sparklers, spangles, salutes and serenades

  1. FurrowedBrow

    Why hasn’t the city released the names of the bands performing at the July 4th festivities as part of the press? I heard through someone that Brushfire Stankgrass was headlining, starting at 8:30pm. What about the other bands?

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