Rains wait while county celebrates

Jul. 04, 2013 @ 03:59 PM

Unionville was all abuzz for its 53rd annual 4th of July celebration.

This week's rainy weather retreated, but left behind mild temperatures. The scent of barbecue chicken cut through the smell of damp soil. The sad twang of a bluegrass band floated above the steady hum of generators powering rides and vendor booths.

"It's like stepping back in time," volunteer Sheila Crunkleton said. "This is the all-American July 4th celebration."

American flags were everywhere, on shirts and hats, on jewelry, painted on faces and emblazoned on trucks. Old friends and neighbors greeted each other with a hearty handshake. Children ran from one parent to the other begging for more tickets to play carnival games.

Unionville Mayor Larry Simpson welcomed the growing crowd to the celebration. He asked them to be quiet for a moment and imagine two soldiers who were put on a special mission, but knew nothing about where they were going or what their plane was carrying.

"And as these gentlemen boarded that big B-29 with the sign on the side that said Enola Gay, they still didn't know," Simpson said.

The crew of that plane dropped one of the nuclear bombs on Japan that forced the end of World War II.

"We can't go to the future unless we remember the past," Simpson said.

He said we enjoy freedoms today that were paid for with huge sacrifices by others. The men and women who went to war during the 40s left their families. Same did not return. Those who did were never the same.

The war was expensive.

"All that money. All that equipment. But more important, the lives that were given so that we could sit out here today, and listen to music, and watch a parade, and eat whatever we desire. When we leave here we can go anywhere we want to go with no fear of retribution from our government," Simpson said.

Up the hill in the Unionville Elementary School parking lot, gleaming examples of America's motoring history were on display. Larry Daugherty brought his 1959 Chevrolet Impalla to the car show. Its black and chrome body shone with a mirror finish. It had fins in the back and a hulking engine crouching under the hood.

"I've been showing cars since about '72 or '73," Dougherty said.

He rattled off a number of classic vehicles he collected over the years. He liked Unionville's show because he can ride in the parade.

Most people think of the Unionville parade, event co-chair Betty Hinson said.

"We don't charge an entrance fee and really anyone can enter it," she said. "We like to keep it happy like that."

All manner of vehicles lined up for the parade that morning. There were tractors, military vehicles, motorcycles, fire trucks, classic cars and horse-drawn carts, just to name a few.

But before the parade, there were plenty of things at the celebration for people to enjoy, Hinson said.

The 40-member local chapter of the Lions Club sponsors the celebration, but relies heavily on community volunteers. Bands performed, young members with Piedmont High School's Leo Club ran the family games,  Union County Sheriff's deputies provided security and lots of regular Unionville residents helped with all other needs.

"And then there are so many people who help with our barbecue chicken," Hinson said.

A team woke up early to begin cooking more than 1,000 chickens, using two truck-loads of wood and 60 bags of charcoal. More than 220 heads of cabbage were chopped and mixed in with vinegar and spices to make the slaw. Hinson said she lost count of how many gallons of sweet tea were made.

The Lion's Club holds the celebration as a fundraiser for its benefits later in the year, club president Rachel Walker said.

"Usually, this event raises an average of about $15,000," Walker said. "Most of that money stays here in our community in the form of humanitarian projects."

The club has given scholarships to young members, held events for the visually impaired, bought books for local schools, provided eye exams and glasses for those in need and buy toys for needy children at Christmas.

"And we get so much help from the people of Unionville. We couldn't do it without them," Walker said.