Celebrate Freedom

Fireworks will start at 9:30 p.m. at tonight’s Celebrate Freedom event at Benjamin Russell. Social distancing is required.

The Fourth of July weekend brings plenty of patriotic festivities and options for the whole family to enjoy. From live music and fireworks to art shows and cornhole tournaments, the holiday celebration offers something for everyone.

The weekend will kick off at the Town Green at Russell Crossroads and shop for one-of-a-kind purchases from local artisans. The ninth annual Arti Gras show will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Saturday with artisans from across the Southeast selling their handmade goods including paintings, pottery, jewelry, woodwork, furniture, lake décor and more.

To maintain adherence to social distancing, vendor space is limited this year but layout will maximize open space at the event. Gloves will be provided and patrons are encouraged to wear masks and also social distance.

“We have 42 vendors signed up this year, so spacing will be a little different,” Russell Lands director of marketing operations Robert Gunn said. “We’ve created some aisles we haven’t had before to go along with guidelines. We’re trying to follow guidelines the best we can to help not spread the coronavirus.”

Masks are also required for both vendors and patrons during Arti Gras.

“We made the decision to require everybody to wear masks,” Gunn said. “We will be providing masks and hand sanitizer to everyone who comes.”

Later tonight, the Town Green will play host to Friday on the Green from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. with International Singer Songwriter association Female Vocalist of the Year Jessie Lynn. Lynn is originally from New York but now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and plays country tunes. Grab chairs, blankets, coolers and some friends to enjoy the show.

Also occurring this evening, Celebrate Freedom will once again host its patriotic program at the Benjamin Russell field from 6 to 10 p.m. Marshall Street Church organizes this free concert and fireworks spectacle each year as a family-friendly event. Food vendors will be on site and attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. Alcohol is not permitted. Fireworks start at 9:30 p.m.

Those looking for something more active, Idletime Family Center in Alex City will host a cornhole tournament at 7 p.m. tonight. The cost is $10 per person and signup is between 6 and 6:45 p.m. Bring a partner or participate in a blind draw. There will be beer specials available.

The morning of Independence Day, the annual Russell Marine Boat Parade will kick off the patriotic pride on Lake Martin. Boats and crews don their finest red, white or blue or quirky theme and parade from Kowaliga Marina, passed Children’s Harbor and back. There is no charge to participate but entries must register prior to the start of the parade at 10 a.m.

Prizes will be awarded for the tallest flag, largest flag, most patriotic crew, most creative theme and best overall boat and crew. Spectators are encouraged to line the shorelines or hop in their boats to view the procession.

Also kicking off the morning festivities, the Blue Creek Fourth of July Parade at 11 a.m. on Olana Drive at the north end of Ponder Camp Road in Dadeville. Locals deck out their golf carts, ATVs and other vehicles and parade to Niffer’s at Lake Martin. To join in on the fun, park anywhere along Ponder Camp Road to collect candy and trinkets thrown by parade entries.

Close out the Fourth of July with the highly anticipated concert and firework at the Lake Martin Amphitheater. The Bank Walkers, a local favorite, will take the stage at 7 p.m. Following the classic rock cover band, Nashville’s Vegabonds will keep the crowds entertained. 

The Alabama-born, Tennessee-bred Southern rock band, The Vegabonds’ musical styling crosses multiple genres from vibrant and upbeat to soulful and gritty. The five-piece band got its start in Alabama in 2009 and has increased in popularity around the country.

“The Vegabonds got their start in Auburn and Nashville is now home but they’ve been here before,” Gunn said. “They haven’t done a live show in about four months so they’re really excited about doing this one with us.”

Lynn will perform the National Anthem at 9 p.m. and the night sky will illuminate with a spectacular fireworks display. There are limited tickets sold this year due to social distancing, so purchase one today for $10 at theamponlakemartin.com, The Company Store at Russell Crossroads or the box office on the day of the show. Typically the Fourth of July event at the Amp sees roughly 3,000 people but this year it will be fewer based on COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’re selling a thousand tickets and (as of Thursday afternoon) have about 450 available still,” Gunn said. “This year is kind of different because people are still leery about getting in crowds.”

Gunn has drawn social circles on the grassy lawn — the same as he’s done for each Friday on the Green — to help families to social distance.

“I spoke to the fireworks guy earlier this week and he said a lot of other shows have been canceled so ours truly is the largest fireworks display in the Southeast this year,” Gunn said.

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.