July is the best part of summer, isn’t it? And on the Fourth of July, summer hits its peak. Here in Gatlinburg, we like to get an early start on the festivities. In fact, we like the Fourth so much that we start celebrating at the stroke of midnight. In Gatlinburg, we’re #FirstontheFourth.

The Best Parade in the Country The 40th annual First Independence Day Parade in the Nation kicks off at 12:01 a.m. starting at traffic light #1A on East Parkway and makes its way through the length of downtown Gatlinburg. Our parade, which honors our nation’s military veterans, is led by the 129th Army Band from the Army National Guard Unit in Nashville.

Grand Marshals Nan Kelley, host of Great American Country Channel’s Top 20 Country Countdown, and Army Captain Steve Voglezon from Fort Bragg, North Carolina will lead the way as states, floats, giant balloons, exotic cars, beauty queens, flags and lots more take the streets of Gatlinburg. It’s a good idea to get downtown early to stake out your spot, as tens of thousands of people show up every year for the parade.

First things First: Our #FirstontheFourth Giveaway If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Gatlinburg on the 4th, you'll have the opportunity to be #FirstontheFourth as well! (Read: win prizes.) Be the first to share any of the below photos using #FirstontheFourth on Instagram and Twitter after midnight, and you’ll win a prize from Gatlinburg. Even if you’re not here, you can participate. We’ll be live-streaming parade festivities on Periscope from 12:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. at @TravelGburg.


July 4th River Raft Regatta: It's Sure to Float Your Boat There’s plenty more to do all day on the Fourth. One of the highlights is the annual River Raft Regatta that’s fun for young and old. Contestants enter anything and everything that floats in this event, as long as it’s unmanned. You can build a float out of toothpicks or throw your rubber ducky into the mix! You can race in two categories: Treasure—or handmade object; or Trash—stuff that’s not handmade. Enter and register starting at 10 a.m. at the Christ in the Smokies Bridge. The race begins at noon and ends at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies bridge. The top three entries in each category will receive awards, and the judges will give a special prize to the most creative entry. There are also prizes for the oldest and youngest contestants.

It Ends with a Bang: The Fireworks Finale We’ll wind up the best Fourth of July celebration in the nation with a fabulous 20-minute fireworks show in the heart of downtown. Make your way to the area around traffic lights #3 and #5 for the best viewing. The display ends with one of the greatest finales you’ll ever see. The 129th Army Band will perform a free concert at 9 p.m. on the Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza and will be playing around town all weekend.

We want to add a word of thanks to all of the brave patriots who have served and are serving our country. That’s really what the Fourth is all about—America’s birthday. So get yourself to Gatlinburg and be #FirstontheFourth. If you can’t make it here, be sure to follow along on social media.