STATE ROAD — It’s arguably the biggest festival in the area. The communities surrounding Mountain Park congregated once again at the Mountain Park Elementary School for a full day of music, games and family celebration.
A 40-minute long parade kicked off the day as hundreds of people lined up along Mountain Park Road to watch the old-timey cars, carriages, fire trucks, and horses stroll down the street. The weather may have been overcast, but the lack of sunshine brought a nice cool front with it, sparing festival-goers from the brunt of the sun.
“I really enjoyed this year’s parade,” said Letha Golden. “My favorite part had to be the horses at the end along with the fire trucks. I come out every year to see my friends.”
“We were in the parade this year,” said Ralph Harris, who drove his 1962 Chevrolet Impala 50th anniversary car in the parade. “Probably one of the largest ones we’ve had and due to the weather I thought we would have less people here but we had more spectators than ever before. I’ve been here for the last several years. This is one of the biggest things in the area on the Fourth of July.”
Music was performed by many groups including Thirteenth Tribe music, Rachel Hinson, and the Coco Loco Party Band. An egg toss and water balloon toss gave festival-goers a chance to enact revenge on friends and foes. Kids bounced about on the bounce houses, rode on the tractor pulls, and played kickball at the elementary school baseball field. Tickets were sold by the sponsoring Mountain Park Ruritan Club for a chance to win a $1,000 raffle. Guests also brought merchandise for the canned food drive. At dusk, the lights went out and everyone was treated to an explosive fireworks show that lit up the starry sky for nearly half an hour.
Tommy and Queena Billings of Billings Way Farm in Independence, Virginia, returned to the festival this year, bring their ponies and bunnies with them. Children got a chance to pet the rabbits while playing a ring toss game for a chance to win a stuffed animal. Pony rides were held under one of the tents and many kids held on tight to Tommy Billing’s mechanical bull.
“This is our third year here,” said Queena Billings. “We stay pretty busy. I love the location. It’s a beautiful park.”
Many of the churches from the local area were also out selling food and snacks while raising awareness to the community.
“We’ve been here about 30 years,” said Pastor Tony White of the Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church. “We come back every year for the fellowship. It’s a great way to get the name of our church out. It’s good for the community. I love the gospel singing, and the fireworks at the end are always great. It’s a good place for people to come relax, get acquainted with friends, make new friends, and just enjoy themselves.”
The festival wasn’t all just fun and games. Jack Luffman sold crafted tie and coat racks in one corner of the festival while his friend Allen Edward sold pens made from wood and acrylics. Raffle tickets for a handmade wooden chest, a walnut bowl and a rolling pin were sold by the stand for $2 each.
“Walked up, set up the stand, and some people came over and bought $75 worth already,” said Luffman. “Between the two of us, we’ve got a total of 50 hours of work here at the festival. Each one of the racks had to be stained and framed individually, then put into the boards.”
People came out to the festival from all around the local communities and the mountains.
“We’ve been coming to the festival as long as I’ve been alive,” said Kristi Gaddis with the Blueberry Hill Wedding Barn Family. “It’s huge and they have one of the largest parades around. It’s so special, because it’s a festival that these small communities can take pride in them. We love the food, the games, and getting to see friends and family. We’re going to stay here a few hours and then come back this evening for the fireworks.”
“We don’t live too far away,” said Megan Stevens. “We love hanging out with friends. We come pretty much every year, so 10 or 12 years at this point. I love helping everybody else. I do a little bit of everything. It’s just getting people together. There’s a lot of fundraisers and it helps to keep the park clean and people coming back.”
This year marks the 43rd anniversary of the festival and Phil Harris believes the celebrations are still going strong after all these years.
“We work on this event year-round,” said Harris, a member of the Mountain Park Ruritan Club. “We start working on the fireworks in January. Set-up went really smoothly without many hitches. Only trouble was the insurance. This event was founded by a local community man named George Saylor and he was the proverbial mayor of Mountain Park. This is the 43rd festival in keeping that legacy. It’s such a small community and there’s nothing else like it around. It’s that one time a year where all the little surrounding communities can visit and commute with one another. It’s great to see everyone.”
Harris doesn’t believe that the festival can grow anymore, but instead the goal should be to continue making it a wonderful event.
“I think it’s as big as we can handle at this point,” said Harris. “Parking is always a problem and the ball field is filled to capacity every year. As far as hoping for future growth, I don’t think we wish for that. I think we wish to maintain what we have and continue to provide a fun, Christian, and safe venue for our communities.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.