East Tennessee celebrates Independence Day

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The rain didn’t stop people from getting out and enjoying the holiday all across East Tennessee.

Knoxville hosted its annual Festival on the Fourth in World’s Fair Park on Tuesday. Fireworks lit up the sky near downtown Knoxville timed perfectly with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. The reason to celebrate was different for everyone.

“We live in a free land where we can worship and be with our families. We don’t all have to believe just alike. We can believe differently, but we have the freedom to do that,” said Sharon Gilliam.

For others, the Fourth of July is a milestone.

“I’m in the Army, but more importantly, my wife was naturalized in a ceremony three years ago, right around this time. So, she’s been a citizen for the last three years. So it’s been great,” said Michael Gerbasi.

His wife Emily is from Brazil. She says celebrating her third Fourth of July as an American is an honor.

“Some people said, ‘Oh it’s just a little ceremony.’ No it’s not. Now I’m American too, I can vote. I can be a part of this great country and this great opportunity,” she said.

The weather held up for the Patriot Festival in Pigeon Forge just in times for hundreds of people to gather for the 27th annual event.

“I think about our flag that we honor so much. I think about our ancestors that fought in wars that we’ve had,” said Rita Crowe.

“The people that gave our life for us to have freedom. I feel that we don’t give the veterans all the glory that they deserve and recognize them like we should,” said Leslie Pate.

People in Gatlinburg were the first in the country to ring in Independence Day. The annual midnight parade is the earliest in the country.

People from all over came into town to celebrate our nation’s independence, exactly what the city of Gatlinburg wants to see. The parade honored the more than 3,500 first responders who came to help during the November wildfires as grand marshals of the parade.

The tourists were another sign of recovery for Gatlinburg as they try to move past the fires and continue traditions like this parade.

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