first independence day parade in the nation

Saluting the valiant men and women of our military services, this 41st annual showcase is the “First July Fourth Parade in the Nation!” Parade starts at the stroke of midnight to begin Independence Day.

The 41st Annual Gatlinburg Fourth of July Midnight Parade steps off at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, July 4, 2016 to the cheers of close to 80,000 spectators. For more than 40 years, the parade has honored our nation’s Military Veterans and other U.S. Military Heroes with this classic, small town American parade. 

The First Independence Day Parade in the Nation has garnered national attention and award recognition for excellence in entertainment. The parade has been named by National Geographic Traveler Magazine as a “Top Ten Parade to see in the US” and recognized by Livability.com as one of the “Five Best Fourth of July Celebrations in Smaller Cities.” Additionally, the event has earned multiple Grand Pinnacle Awards by the International Festivals and Events Association and was named a Top 20 Event for 2016 by Southeast Tourism Society.

“It is gratifying that the parade has gained this kind of national attention,” said Vicki Simms, Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director. “The sheer volume of people that come to the parade, some year after year, is a testament to the entertainment value of this event. It is such an honor to be recognized nationally for the many years of success.  We are very grateful for the hundreds of people who volunteer to make this happen each year.”  

The 100th Army Band from Fort Knox, Kentucky will lead off the festivities Sunday afternoon leading up to the midnight parade with concerts from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza. Entertainment acts from Litchfield Marching Dragons from Minnesota, the Baltimore Twilighters and the Baltimore Entertainers are also expected to march in the parade along with featured floats, giant balloons and exotic cars.

Stretching more than a mile, the parade route begins at traffic light #1A on East Parkway, turning south onto Parkway at traffic light #3 and traveling the length of downtown to traffic light #10 at Ski Mountain Road. Parade goers are encouraged to arrive early on Sunday, July 3 in order to secure the perfect viewing area along the parade route.

The festivities continue at Noon on Monday, July 4 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 10:00 a.m. at Christ in the Smokies. Prizes will be awarded.  

Gatlinburg’s Fourth of July celebrations will come to a close at 10:00 p.m. when visitors will enjoy the spectacular 20-minute fireworks display in the heart of downtown, with the best viewing areas around traffic lights #3 and #5. The 100th Army Band will play prior to the fireworks in a free concert at 8:30 p.m. and then again following the fireworks at 10:20 p.m. on Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza.  

In addition to the Fourth of July events, the streets of Gatlinburg are filled with Appalachian music from Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales every night through July 30.  The City offers free Parkway Trolley service, spanning the full length of the Parkway, daily through August 20 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.   

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If you wish to be a participant in the parade, download the application here

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