By Dave Ongie
For the 33rd straight year, the skies over Johnson City will be illuminated by fireworks launched from Freedom Hall on Wednesday, July 4.
But even though the Pepsi Independence Day Celebration has become an institution in Johnson City, the event has always brought together the entire region to share in a family-friendly celebration of our nation’s independence.
“When I say community, I’m not just talking about Johnson City,” said Lisa Chamness, the director of Freedom Hall. “It’s Kingsport, Bristol – it doesn’t matter if you’re from Piney Flats, Gate City or Stoney Creek, we draw people from all over the area.”
Food service and children’s activities will start at 5 p.m. The entertainment will officially kick off at 5:30 p.m. when the WXBQ DJ gets things going. Jimbo Whaley and Greenbriar will follow at 6 o’clock, and Brinley Addington will perform at 7 before headlining act Mo Pitney takes the stage at 8:15. There will be a prize drawing at 9:20 – which will include a 2018 Chevrolet Sonic LS donated by Champion Chevrolet – followed by the fireworks at 9:55.
While some folks choose to scout out a good spot on a hillside in or around Johnson City, thousands make an annual pilgrimage into the mass of humanity that converges on Freedom Hall once a year to enjoy an afternoon and evening full of entertainment that lead up to the fireworks display. While the process and procedures for getting people in and out of the area surrounding Freedom Hall in an orderly manner remains unchanged, it does bear repeating for those looking to travel to Freedom Hall on July 4.
The Johnson City Transit will once again be providing a free park and ride service starting at 5 p.m. and continuing until 8:15. Buses will collect folks from the parking lot at the Winged Deer Park complex as well as the ETSU parking lot at the corner of State of Franklin and University Parkway. Coolers and lawn chairs will be allowed on the shuttle buses, but it should be noted that alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Only service animals will be allowed to ride, and lift-equipped buses will be available at both sites.
Those wishing to procure handicapped parking passes to park onsite at Freedom Hall must call 423.461.4884 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on a weekday between now and July 3.
In addition to alcoholic beverages, charcoal grills, fireworks and pets are also on the list of prohibited items. Those planning to drive and park should be advised that several roads around Freedom Hall will be closed, particularly in the neighborhoods in the immediate area. Freedom Hall staff and the Johnson City Police Department strongly recommend using the shuttle buses, which will begin taking people back to their cars immediately following the festivities.
If you do decide to drive, the Knob Creek/State of Franklin connection is the best way to travel from Bristol or Kingsport to Freedom Hall. After the fireworks, I-26, State of Franklin and Highway 381 should be less congested than the Kingsport and Bristol Highways.