By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Fairpark attracted a patriotic community to celebrate the nation’s birthday.
Stars and stripes were out in force as Tupelo took its annual All America City 4th of July Celebration downtown for the first time.
Brandi Johnson of Blue Springs was red, white and blue all over with ribbons in her hair, bracelets and a patriotic T-shirt. Her 16-month son Nox had claimed her necklace as he played in Fairpark’s fountain.
“There’s nothing like being with people celebrating the same thing,” Johnson said.
Even though she’s got 20 years of Independence Day memories at Ballard Park, 32-year-old Johnson gave Fairpark a thumbs-up.
“I like it here,” she said. “I think it’s turned out well.”
Near the fountain, the Ford family and members of White Hill Missionary Baptist Church were gathered under an patio umbrella and a Mississippi State tent near the Fairpark gate. They brought hot dogs and hamburgers to feed a crowd.
“We usually have a big group,” said Cheryl Ford of Tupelo as the Tupelo Unity Choir prepared to take the stage. “It gets bigger every year.”
Ford said she was initially concerned about having enough elbow room; Fairpark is much smaller than Ballard Park.
“So far so good,” Ford said. “Parking was much easier. We didn’t have to walk a mile.”
People lined up for barbecue, ice cream and snow cones around the edges of the downtown venue.
“It’s definitely picking up,” said Randy Davis of Romie’s as he and his co-workers served up barbecue pork nachos.
The change in location was a big hit with the Mashburn family from Saltillo.
“We love it. We’ve got the water (for the kids),” said Kathy Mashburn, who brought three generations of the family to the show. “The view is wonderful. We like it better.”
Margaret Anne Murphey, executive director of the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, was enjoying the late afternoon shade and anticipating the orchestra and chorus’ performance.
“It is amazing the difference in the sound,” Murphey said. “We’re been a part of this event for almost 20 years, and in my opinion, each year it gets better.”
Tupelo Parks and Recreation director Don Lewis said he was hearing lots of positive reactions to the shift to downtown, with people appreciating the Fairpark atmosphere and the plentiful parking.
“We seem to have a larger attendance earlier,” Lewis said, drawn in part by comfortable afternoon temperatures and curiousity about the new venue.
The Fairpark family rolled out the welcome.
“We’ve probably passed out 350 bottles of water,” said Realtor Sean Hettinger of Tommy Morgan Inc. at 6 p.m.
Fairpark’s water features also were getting a lot of use.
“People came ready to get wet,” Lewis said.
Around the corner from the stage, Destiny Waldo of Pontotoc was part of a large group of kids splashing and bouncing on inflatibles.
“I like riding on the slides, the 8-year-old said as she bounced back into line for another turn.