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Gatlinburg Celebrates Independence Day at Midnight Parade

By Michael Williams

While most Americans were in bed at Midnight, the city of Gatlinburg was just getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July with the 37th annual Gatlinburg Fourth of July Midnight Parade. Multitudes of spectators numbering in the tens of thousands stood along the Parkway and waiting patiently until the first floats wound through the streets to the delight of the expectant crowd.

The Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black unit of fighter pilots during World War II, were the guests of honor. Several of the surviving members of the squadron sat on a float waving at spectators as they passed.

100th army band
The 100th Army Band, from Fort Knox, Ky., lead the 37th annual Gatlinburg 4th of July midnight parade

The 100th Army Band, from Fort Knox, Ky., lead the parade. The internationally renowned band performed patriotic music as it marched down the parkway. Several high schools provided marching Bands from as far away as Canada such as the Burlington Teen Tour Band from Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

More than 100 floats and performers took part in the festivities, providing a rich assortment of entertainment and heritage. The acrobats of the Cirque de Chine Theater represented 5,000 years of Chinese heritage with a colorful golden dragon held aloft by acrobats that steadied the dragon with sticks. They were followed by a plethora of acrobats waving to the crowd.

Riders from the Dixie Stampede Dinner Theater rode their horses in formation followed by floats from other Pigeon Forge attractions such as the Comedy Barn, The Hatfields and McCoys Dinner Show, Sweet Fanny Adams and many more. The soulful sounds of Motown emanated from live performances by the cast of Soul of Motown and the Temptations Revue, Pigeon Forge's newest theater. A tribute to the nation's military was presented by the Grand Majestic Theatre.

Car enthusiasts were dazzled by more than 40 Corvettes riding in formation. The cars were driven by members of the Corvette Club. Vintage John Deere tractors were driven up the parkway by farmers representing our nation's agriculture.

cherokee warriors
Cherokee Warriors

Each of the four branches of military service, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines were represented with floats recognizing their contributions to maintaining the nation's national security and providing for our defense. The Marines float depicted the iconic flag raising at the Battle of Iwo Jima. More than 25,000 U.S. Marines were killed or wounded in the battle. The float served as a reminder that the cost of freedom is high.

No parade would be complete without Shriners riding in go-carts, majorettes twirling batons and clowns. A crew of clowns riding in go carts sped up and down the parkway to the delight of all followed by majorettes, cloggers and a bicyclist riding a rare vintage 19th century era bicycle.

The birth of the nation and our humble beginnings were commemorated with a float that depicted the difficult living conditions endured by our soldiers. The float depicted two soldiers in period clothing sitting near a tent. They are flanked by militia men carrying muskets. The float was created by the Knoxville Sons of the American Revolution.

Bringing up the rear of the parade was a float depicting Uncle Sam flanked by bagpipers.

Published July 5, 2012

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