190704 Spirit of Freedom Celebration 26

Florence canine officers patrol the area at the 38th Annual Spirit of Freedom Fourth of July celebration at McFarland Park. Local officials said the holiday weekend was relatively peaceful. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

The extended Independence Day holiday came and went with few issues, and organizers are calling the "Spirit of Freedom" festival's return a success.

In Colbert County, Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Smith said he was hesitant to use the "q" word, but conceded that the weekend was one of the quietest ones he'd seen.

"I don't want to jinx anything, but it's been very slow going for us," Smith said.

With the amount of recreational water resources in the Shoals, Smith was grateful there were no water-related accidents during the long Fourth of July holiday.

On Independence Day, residents wanting a bird's-eye view of the fireworks at Florence's McFarland Park gathered on Lake Pickwick Drive in Sheffield, while others attended an event on the Old Railroad Bridge in Sheffield.

"We didn't hear of any problems there," Smith said of the railroad bridge gathering.

He said there were about six reports of trees down in the county following storms that hit the area between 5 and 6 p.m. Saturday. Smith said there were no injuries or damage associated with the downed trees.

Lauderdale EMA Director George Grabryan said volunteer fire departments in Killen and Rogersville assisted Limestone County authorities with a search and recovery after a drowning in that county.

"Generally speaking, everything else seemed to be quiet," Grabryan said. "We had a pretty brisk number of calls for service as we always do, but no major incidents. Nothing out of the ordinary."

Grabryan said agencies worked well together for the unified command operation for the "Spirit of Freedom."

Florence Mayor Steve Holt said attendance for the fireworks show at the festival was "the best crowd I've seen."

The "Spirit of Freedom" moniker was added to this year's celebration at McFarland Park after a year's absence. The 2018 Independence Day celebration included fireworks and music, but the trademark name was not used.

This year, the city of Florence, University of North Alabama and Singing River Media Group teamed up for the event.

Singing River Media includes WLAY, WVNA, WMSR and WMXV radio stations. The company had been Urban Radio Broadcasting Co. before Mike and Kevin Self purchased it.

Urban Radio used to sponsor the celebration and used the "Spirit of Freedom" name. Kevin Self said that tradition is back with organizers planning on restoring the festival to what the Shoals traditionally has experienced.

This year, the city of Florence paid $12,000 to Pyro Shows of LaFollette, Tennessee, to provide the fireworks.

Self said Singing River wants to make next year's festival larger.

"It's gratifying to see that people still wanted an event like that and wanted to come out and celebrate the Fourth," he said. "They want to be patriotic and have a family event and have a good time.

"We'll start planning early for next year, and start looking for ways to make it come back to prominence and be the kind of event the Shoals wants and deserves for the Fourth of July."

The town of Cherokee held its annual Independence Day event on Saturday. Mayor Terry Cosby said the estimated 800 people provided one of the event's largest turnouts in recent memory.

"It went pretty good," Cosby said. "The rain went to the north of us, to the south, the east and west. We lucked up on that part. I think everybody had a good time. We're proud of our fireworks show."

He said last year's event was delayed about 10 minutes by a thunderstorm that rolled in as the event was scheduled to start.

"This year it went around us," Cosby said.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

russ.coey@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5758. Twitter @TD_RussCorey


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.