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Coulwood community’s Independence Day celebration has been tradition for more than 50 years

By Olivia Fortson
ofortson@charlotteobserver.com

Residents around the Charlotte region celebrated America’s independence Thursday by enjoying an array of holiday parades and celebrations.

As evening approached, many eyed overcast and threatening skies, worried that fireworks displays might get rained out. Officials planning Charlotte’s largest display uptown encouraged residents to show up at Memorial Stadium rain or shine, pledging that the fireworks would go on.

Officials pushed back the 9:30 p.m. start, and showers briefly sent crowds scampering for cover. But shortly after 10 p.m., fireworks exploded across the night sky.

City officials declared the celebration uptown an “extraordinary event,” invoking a city ordinance giving police expanded powers to stop and search people.

Shortly after the fireworks display, Charlotte police were investigating the shooting of a woman as she stood outside Bar Charlotte at 300 N. College St. in uptown. Her injuries were not life-threatening, an official said.

A police watch commander said she was struck by what was believed to be a “stray bullet” at about 11 p.m. Investigators were still at the scene, officials said.

Earlier, one of the largest parades stepped off on the city’s east side in Hickory Grove, where newly appointed Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey and Grand Marshal Steve Crump of WBTV waved to spectators carrying umbrellas to fend off the occasional burst of rain. Then everyone was invited to gather at The Grove church for a celebration that included music and a pie-eating contest.

53 years strong in Coulwood

Across town on Charlotte’s northwest side, the July Fourth spirit was on display at one of the area’s longest-running events during the Coulwood Community’s 53rd annual Independence Day Celebration. It kicked off with a morning parade through the neighborhood.

Brandon Sandy was one of the spectators who watched the 35 floats, 12 firetrucks, two Boy Scout troops, horses, dogs, motorized vehicles, beauty queens and two politicians (Democratic N.C. Sen. Joel Ford, and Edwin Peacock, a Republican candidate for mayor of Charlotte) pass by.

“I grew up in this neighborhood so as a little boy and a Boy Scout, I was always in the parade,” said Sandy. “I started out walking, then when I got older I rode a bike, then a dirt bike.”

Tradition, family and a sense of community run deep in this Charlotte suburb that was developed in 1953 on what was once farmland.

Andy DeCann, president of the Coulwood Community Council, is now 43 years old and moved to the neighborhood with his parents when he was 2. “I’ve only missed one July Fourth here, and that’s because I moved to Oklahoma for several years and one year I just couldn’t make it,” he said. He now lives 5 miles from the house he grew up in, where his parents still live.

“It’s not an oddity,” he said of his devotion to the neighborhood and its annual Independence Day celebration. “I can walk up the street and almost everyone I see is someone I went to high school with or someone I grew up with.”

All the activity paused as the Boy Scouts’ color guard raised the flag, the Rev. John Hall of Oak Grove Baptist Church gave the invocation and 15-year-old Hannah-Ashland McCord belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner” better than most celebrities you see at big televised events.

DeCann attributes the longevity of the community’s July Fourth celebration to the number of veterans and members of the military who live there.

“The generation who started it, it was important to them. And we were raised to think it’s important, too. It’s what we know, it’s what we believe in.”

As heads bowed during Hall’s prayer, he gave thanks to God for being blessed to live in the greatest nation on Earth. “Some days we’ve been faithful to you, and some days we have not, but you have always been faithful to us.”

Fortson: 704-358-5222
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