What is it about a parade that makes it so enjoyable – the floats, the marching bands, the dignitaries, and the celebrities? The artistic displays? Staying up until midnight to watch the start? Wait, what?
Every year, Gatlinburg hosts the First July 4th Parade in the Nation and to be able to lay claim to that title, they begin at midnight on the 4th. Up to 100,000 spectators are present for this event which began in 1976. This year is the 37th annual parade and the grand marshals will be members of the Tuskegee Airmen Association. The 100th Army Band from Fort Knox will lead the parade.
If you want to get a good seat, be prepared to get there early. Setup is allowed to begin at 7 a.m. on July 3, and there will be people placing their chairs on the route at that time. Perhaps you want to enjoy the festivities but aren’t sure you can stay up that late? Good news, you can wait until the daylight hours to see more patriotic displays.
In addition to the parade, the 100th Army Band will perform free concerts on the Ripley’s Aquarium plaza downtown on the 4th. The Burlington Teen Touring Band from Canada will also perform on the plaza. There will also be the River Raft Regatta, where any entry that is unmanned and can float will be sent down the river in hopes of winning prizes. Finally, a fireworks display at 10 p.m. caps a great birthday celebration in the Smokies.