There are certainly bigger July 4th celebrations in bigger cities but none are better than our Jasper, Ga. celebration.
Other celebrations of America’s independence may have flyovers of military aircraft and more elaborate floats and those are nice, but impersonal. Those evoke spectacle, ours here evokes community.
Jasper’s Main Street is the only parade where you’ll find Pickens County faces. Not just our officials and candidates but that guy from down the street and the swim team and the guy who has the place that fixes your car.
And, appropriately enough, those are our veterans wearing their uniforms and representing the DAV, veterans park group, American Legion, Legion Riders and Marine detachment coming through. Look at the faces of those soldiers and you know why America has won the wars, not one showed signs of being bothered by the 90-plus degree heat out there in uniforms, carrying flags.
All the people in the parade throwing candy and waving are people you know as neighbors, fellow church members or from the businesses you deal with. Heck, you’d probably wave at many of the folks on the floats and firetrucks if you saw them standing on the roadside, not even at a parade.
The floats rolling down Main Street are there because they are a part of this small town and that’s what makes our July 4th celebration special.
This classic Norman Rockwell-ish Independence Day doesn’t happen by magic or by tax dollars. It happens by hard work from the Jasper Lions Club.
For people who don’t know the history, the Lions were formed on June 22, 1939. Two weeks later they partnered with the Jaycees (a service organization that has since gone defunct) and got involved in the mid-summer celebration for Jasper.
And since that time there have been some doozies of celebrations. Ask any long time Jasper resident about “The Fourth” and they probably have a story to tell of when the rides were set up on Main Street or when they had greased pole climbing and greased pig chasing.
For all 80 years of their service, the Jasper Lions have supplied their time, effort and money to make the big day happen. Their members arrange everything from the opening parade and entertainment to the rides and the fireworks.
The local club doesn’t assemble the rides, but they make sure there is a company coming and they find the fireworks guys who close out the day.
Please keep in mind that the rides are important for families who can’t make the trip to metro amusement parks. If the Lions didn’t bring these rides to town, some kids would never get to hop on a Ferris wheel.
And the money generated by the festivities and raffles fund the Lions work throughout the year, including a home for developmentally disabled, eyeglasses for those who need them and health checks and summer camps among other projects.
Lions Club President Leslie Miller said about 90 percent of their club members were involved either in preparation or on the 4th. She said, “it’s still fun except sometimes it doesn’t seem that fun until you are sitting there watching the end of the fireworks and know that another one is in the books.”
The Lions have been doing this for years and they see many of the same faces return every time for Bingo and the fireworks, according to Lion Eloise Lindsey. She said people tell her they save money throughout the year for their “Bingo money.”
It’s not just a holiday for these people, it’s a family reunion – which is a sentiment you’ll never find in a big city event.