Fireworks rise above Festival Park in Fayetteville Thursday night.
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -
Thousands of people
in Fayetteville enjoyed an Independence Day celebration that was a significant
change from what the community has come to expect. Festival Park had an
overflow crowd Thursday night for a celebration that include food and drink
vendors, live music and a fireworks show.
For decades, many
people in the Fayetteville area enjoyed the Fourth of July celebration on post
at Fort Bragg. However, in April, forced spending cuts led Fort Bragg and other
military bases nationwide to cancel their annual July celebrations.
The city of
Fayetteville began quietly working on a substitute event for the community, and
the efforts got a big boost. The city won the "Red, White and You" contest that
provided significant funding for the live music and substantial fireworks
Army soldier Jeff Wells wrote the brief essay that led to Fayetteville winning
the contest. He said his father read about the contest and told him it may be
worth a try to enter.
Wells wrote 138
words – just less than the 150-word limit. He admits he probably spent only about
ten minutes on the essay, but obviously his heartfelt message got the right
"When there wasn't going to be Fort Bragg fireworks, which
the community looks forward to, it was a disappointment for all of them, and I
think they all deserve to have a fireworks celebration, absolutely," Wells
His essay also talked about Fort Bragg being the "center of
the Army Universe." He said he worries that some soldiers may feel like support
for troops is waning as the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.
"I don't want soldiers to think that they're not still supported," Wells
said. "I think it's great to reinforce to them, like I said in the essay, to be
reminded that they still have the support."
The magazine "USA
Weekend" and the cable TV channel "Destination America," which is part of the
Discovery network, ran the contest. During Thursday's celebration, "Destination
America" led the way as the hosting sponsor.
Other local partners included Reed-Lallier
Chevrolet, Huske Hardware House and the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland
Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon.More>>