first independence day parade in the nation

Saluting the valiant men and women of our military services, this 39th annual showcase is the “First July Fourth Parade in the Nation!” Parade starts at the stroke of midnight to begin Independence Day.

Special Events Highlight the July 4th Celebration including Special Guest appearance by Wounded Warrior and Paralympic Athlete Heath Calhoun 

Gatlinburg, TN - The first Independence Day Parade in the Nation marks its 39th year by honoring Military Veterans and other U.S. Military Heroes.  The annual Gatlinburg 4th of July Midnight Parade leads off at midnight on Thursday, July 3, 2014 to the cheers of close to 100,000 spectators lining the streets of the City for this award winning parade.

Retired Army Staff Sargent Heath Calhoun will be the Grand Marshal riding on the Rocky Top Sports World float.  Calhoun is a wounded warrior who competed in the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.  Also featured in the parade will be the 100th Army Military Band and members of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Calhoun served as a Squad Leader for the 101st Airborne Division while deployed in Iraq.  He was severely injured when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his Humvee in 2003, resulting in the amputation of both his legs above the knees.  During rehabilitation and learning to walk on prosthetics, Calhoun learned about the Wounded Warrior Project.  Through that program, he was introduced to adaptive skiing.  Since 2008, Calhoun has represented the U.S in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia and the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Canada.  

“It is an honor to have Heath Calhoun as Grand Marshal on the Rocky Top Sports World float,” says city spokesperson, Marci Claude.   “He has represented his country from the battlefield to the ski slopes of Sochi.  He is truly an American Hero and an inspiration to all who meet him and hear his story.”  

The Parade route will extend from traffic light #1A on East Parkway, turn South onto Parkway at traffic light #3, then traveling the length of the downtown street to traffic light #10 at Ski Mountain Road. Claude encourages parade goers to check out the Parade route early to choose your best spot. “Some 100,000 people will attend the Parade and many of those will start placing their folding chairs along the route as early as 7:00AM on July 3rd,” according to Claude.  

The festivities continue at Noon on Friday, July 4th with the annual River Raft Regatta, an unmanned floatables race beginning at Christ in the Smokies bridge on River Road and ending at the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies bridge.  Registration begins at 10:00AM at Christ in the Smokies.  Prizes will be awarded.  

Finally at 10:00PM, visitors will enjoy the spectacular Annual Fireworks Display in the heart of Gatlinburg. The best viewing will be the area around traffic lights number 3 and 5. The 100th Army Band will play prior to the fireworks in a free concert starting at 9:00PM on the Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza.  

In addition to the July 4th events, the streets in Gatlinburg are filled with Appalachian music with Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales every night through August 9.  Also, the City offers free Parkway Trolley service, spanning the full length of the Parkway, daily through August 16.  

Get some rest after the parade, because Gatlinburg offers the River Raft Regatta – an unmanned floatables race, and several free admission concerts along with a spectacular fireworks display on July 4th. 

Schedule of Events for July Fourth Festivities:

July 3rd

At 1 pm there will be an autograph signing with paralympic athlete and military veteran Heath Calhoun , the Parade's Grand Marshal on the Plaza at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.  There will also be an appearance by Osceola, a bald eagle with the American Eagle Foundation.
The 100th Army Band will present free Ensemble Concerts beginning at 2:30 pm and ending at 5 pm on the Plaza at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. 
The July Fourth Parade will begin at Midnight.
July 4th
The River Raft Regatta will begin registration at 10 am on July 4th. The unmanned floatable race will start at the bridge at Christ in the Smokies Museum & Gardens at noon and the winners will be the first to reach the bridge at Ripley’s Aquarium.
At 9 pm, the 100th Army Band will perform a full band concert on the Plaza at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. 
The concert will lead up to the 10 pm Fireworks display at the parking garage at light #3, during which the 100th Army Band will play along with the fireworks.

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