first independence day parade in the nation

Saluting the valiant men and women of our military services, this 40th annual showcase is the “First July Fourth Parade in the Nation!” Parade starts at the stroke of midnight to begin Independence Day.

Gatlinburg announces Grand Marshals for Parade - Nation’s 1st Independence Day Parade Now a 40 Year Tradition

The Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce the official grand marshals for the Gatlinburg 4th of July Midnight Parade. The parade, now in its 40th year, will step off with Nan Kelley, host of Great American Country Channel’s Top 20 Country Countdown and Army Captain Steve Voglezon from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

A former Miss Mississippi, Nan Kelley has made a career of working in country music television production. Kelley first got her start in television when she was a co-host of Prime Time Country for The Nashville Network. After five years, she became a fixture on one of the most popular and well-known music shows in the world- The Grand Ole Opry. She became the television host of Opry Live on GAC and has since served as the longtime host of the popular fan-voted show GAC Top 20 Country Countdown.

Also acting as the parade’s grand marshal is Army Captain Steve Voglezon of the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. Stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Capt. Voglezon is a highly decorated officer, recognized for more than 10 prestigious awards of military honor and graduate of Johns Hopkins University. Capt. Voglezon was dubbed “the real Captain America” in May when his heroic act on a North Carolina Highway went viral. Capt. Voglezon pulled three people from a fiery car crash before firefighters were able to arrive on scene. He just so happened to be wearing a Captain America t-shirt at the time of the rescue, making the admirable act that much more of a heroic of a tale.

Information about the parade 

The 40th annual Gatlinburg 4th of July Midnight Parade steps off at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 4, 2015 to the cheers of close to 80,000 spectators.  For 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 was recently named by National Geographic Traveler Magazine as a “Top Ten Parade to see in the US” and recognized by 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.

“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 40 years of success.  We are very grateful for the hundreds of people who volunteer to make this happen each year.” 

The 129th Army Band from the Army National Guard Unit in Nashville will lead off the parade with more bands to follow; some coming from as far away as Minnesota and Maryland.  With entries from five states, the parade will also feature floats, giant balloons, entertainment, exotic cars, antique tractors and military vehicles. Leading up to the Midnight Parade on Friday, the 129th Army Band will perform patriotic concerts throughout the City. See the schedule below. 

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 Friday, July 3 to find a place along the Parkway to watch the Midnight Parade.

The festivities continue at Noon on Saturday, 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. 

The festivities will conclude at 10:00 p.m. when visitors will enjoy the spectacular 20-minute fireworks display in the heart of Gatlinburg. The best viewing will be the area around traffic lights #3 and #5.  The 129th Army Band will play prior to the fireworks in a free concert at 9:00 p.m. on the Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza. 

In addition to the July 4th events, the streets of Gatlinburg are filled with Appalachian music from Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales every night through August 1.  The City offers free Parkway Trolley service, spanning the full length of the Parkway, daily through August 15.  

Here is the schedule for the 129th Army Band.
Friday, July 3:
1:30 pm: The Village – 129th Army Bluegrass Band
2:30 pm: Traffic Light 3 Plaza – Major Rush
3:30 pm: Reagan Terrace – Arsenal of Fusion
5:00 pm: Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza – Nightfire

Saturday, July 4: 
2:00 pm: Elks Plaza – Arsenal of Fusion
3:00 pm: Reagan Terrace – 129th Army Bluegrass Band
4:00 pm: The Village – Major Rush
9:00 pm: Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza – 129th Army Band

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