Gatlinburg celebrates Independence Day with Full Slate of Events. American Idol Contestant EmiSunshine is Parade Grand Marshal


Gatlinburg’s award-winning Fourth of July Midnight Parade will step off at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, July 4 with American Idol contestant, EmiSunshine, leading the way as Grand Marshal.

The 46th annual parade will honor First Responders, U.S. Veterans, military heroes, and frontline healthcare workers. Spectators will enjoy a celebration of red, white, and blue as patriotically decorated and lighted floats parade through downtown. The 100th Army Band from Fort Knox, Kentucky will commemorate the holiday with a marching musical performance. Get the schedule.

American Idol contestant and rising country music star, EmiSunshine, will lead the parade as the official Grand Marshal. An East Tennessee native, the singer-songwriter’s unique musical talent was most recently showcased on Season 19 of ABC’s “American Idol.” Prior to that national exposure, Emi has performed at the Grand Ole Opry, made several appearances on national television shows, including NBC’s “Today Show.” While acclaimed on the national stage, the artist’s beginnings started in the heart of Gatlinburg as a cast member of Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales and a regular at the Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival. 

The parade steps off at the intersection of East Parkway and Baskins Creek Bypass turning south onto the Parkway at traffic light #3. The parade continues through town ending at Ski Mountain Road. Parade-goers are encouraged to arrive early on Saturday, July 3 to avoid traffic and secure parking.

On Sunday, July 4, the River Raft Regatta, Gatlinburg’s annual unmanned floatable objects race, will begin registration at the updated time of 11 a.m. at the former Christ in the Smokies Museum. The race will set sail at 1 p.m. and finish when all floatables have crossed the finish line at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Event-goers have the option to participate in the race by purchasing a rubber duck for $2. Winners in several different categories will receive official trophies. 

The 100th Army Band from Fort Knox, Kentucky will provide free performances over the course of the holiday weekend with pop-up concerts throughout town during the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. The full concert band will perform patriotic music prior to the fireworks display at 9 p.m. on Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza.

The Fireworks Finale will be a spectacular display from the Gatlinburg Space Needle. Beginning at 11 p.m., the 15-minute display from the 400-foot-tall Space Needle can be seen from any vantage point in Gatlinburg.