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Celebrating Patriotic Pride at Patriot Festival

By Michael Williams

Thousands of spectators converged on Patriot Park in Pigeon Forge to celebrate the nation's 136th birthday Wednesday. Spectators sat leisurely, in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains, enjoying a late evening summer breeze and a small sprinkling of rain that brought some relief to unusually high temperatures, as they were entertained by music from a country music icon.

patriot festival pigeon forge
Award winning country music artist John Anderson performs at annual Patriot Festival

Award winning country music artist John Anderson took the stage at 8:30 p.m. to the delight of fans who took advantage of the free entertainment at the annual Patriot Festival. Anderson performed the hits that made him a country music superstar in the 1980s and continues to endear him to fans. Anderson's performance of the haunting anthem "Seminole Wind" seemed appropriate for a venue near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The song is a cautionary tale of how progress is taking a toll on our natural resources and how pollution is exacting damage to our environment.

Anderson performed the heart break ballad "Straight Tequila Night" and fans sang along to the song most associated with Anderson "Swingin'."

The always gregarious Anderson met with a handful of fans for a meet and greet before the show to sign autographs and take photos.

Opening for Anderson was the 1960s era rock and roll band, the Lovin' Spoonful. The band is known for such classic rock tunes "Summer in the City," which seemed to be an appropriate tune on a hot summer day, and "Walk Away, Renee." The band performed a medley of several of the songs of their friends and fellow rock stars from the era including the Mamas and Papas classic tune "California Dreaming." The band finished their performance with their classic hit "Do you believe in magic." Though some of the original members of the band are now aged 60 and up, their sound was still as lively as it was more than 40 years ago. An enthusiastic response from the audience indicated the band had won over a new generation of fans.

Along the jogging track that encircles the park were numerous not-for-profit organizations that sold drinks, refreshments and toys. The money raised was to benefit the charitable organizations they represented. Kids were entertained by a kids zone complete with slides, a bounce house. A mechanical bull and a climbing wall.

At the end of the evening the spectators were mesmerized by a dazzling 20-minute fireworks display that lit up the night sky with a magnificent array of colors.

Despite the heat wave and the cancellation of some fireworks shows in the area, the festival was a success.

"We had a good turn out," said Butch Helton, one of the event organizers. "It was better than last year."

Published July 5, 2012

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