SOUTHPORT — This year will mark a 226-year tradition celebrating America’s independence as part of North Carolina’s official 4th of July Festival in the sleepy town of Southport. Though Covid-19 turned the festival virtual in 2020, this year has it resuming with at least some in-person events and following pandemic protocols that encourage social distancing.
“We look forward to welcoming residents and visitors,” Karen Sphar, executive vice president of the Southport-Oak Island Area Chamber of Commerce, stated in a press release. “For several months, the committee has worked to create a schedule of events that could be held should live events resume.”
Gov. Cooper announced last week, he plans on dropping more Covid-19 restrictions, including gathering and capacity limits by Jun. 1, in hopes of returning the state to some sense of normalcy. He also said he will likely still require masks indoors at public gatherings.
The CDC announced today that vaccinated people can drop masks outside unless they’re congregating in large groups. Southport town officials and the festival committee are heeding such protocols, encouraging attendees follow the three Ws — wear a mask, wash your hands, wait 6 feet apart.
“We’re glad to be able to offer more support this year and host a few of the events for this year’s July 4th celebration,” Mayor of Oak Island, Ken Thomas, said in the release. “We’re looking forward to gathering with friends and family, with health and safety in mind, to celebrate Independence Day.”
The committee switched up sites where some events will be held, in order to help maintain crowd sizes. The 3,739-populated town of Southport normally inflates with over 60,000 people flocking to its waterfront every July. This year some events have moved to Oak Island to spread out a bit more. Yet, other events like the parade and naturalization ceremony will remain paused, with the committee aiming to fully rebound in 2022.
“The festival committee appreciates the Town of Oak Island’s willingness to expand the number of events held on Oak Island in 2021,” according to North Carolina 4th of July Festival cochair Trisha Howarth.
The festivities begin with the traditional Oak Island Beach Day, featuring tournaments in horseshoe, cornhole, volleyball and bocce ball. There will also be a sand castle competition, plus inflatable rides. Events will take place at Middletown Park and the beachfront cabana at 46th and Beach Drive, including a food truck rodeo from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m., and live music from Gary Lowder and Smokin’ Hot from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. A shag contest will take place between breaks, and fireworks will light up over Oak Island Pier at 9 p.m.
On Saturday, July 3, at Oak Island’s Bill Smith Park (4446 Fish Factory Rd.), a Red, White and Blue Car Show takes place from 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. with awards at 3 p.m. The Back Porch Rockers will play from 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. The annual reading of the Declaration of Independence will also happen Saturday at Moore Street Market in Southport, beginning at 10 a.m and will move to Southport Market at noon and another yet-to-be-disclosed location at 2 p.m. A flag retirement ceremony will be held later in the day, 4 p.m., at the Fort-Johnson-Southport Museum and Visitor’s Center.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, from Middletown Park to Old Village Shops, children’s entertainment, an arts and crafts market, and live music will take place from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
On Sunday, July 4, a flag-raising ceremony at Garrison Lawn in Southport will officially bring in Independence Day. Thereafter will be a live professional wrestling event (details to be determined) and a Freedom Flotilla, with boats cruising from Dockside Grill to St. James Marina in Southport. Festivities will conclude with more fireworks over the Oak Island Pier at 9 p.m.
“The additional space that locations in Oak Island can provide along with events scheduled at local businesses in Southport help to dispersing crowd sizes while also giving everyone a chance to enjoy some of the annual traditions,” the release noted.
For more information, check in at the festival website.
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