Despite the heat, crowds flooded downtown Williamsburg this Fourth of July for hot air balloon rides, live music, hot dogs and fireworks.
Festivities kicked off at 9:30 a.m. with a reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Capitol Building in Colonial Williamsburg. The crowd listened eagerly as Kurt Smith, playing Thomas Jefferson, recited the famous document from the balcony of the Capital.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” Smith said, the crowd cheering in response.
Later that morning down the street, the Williamsburg Economic Development Authority hosted its “All American July 4th” celebration. People gathered on the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum’s lawn for an egg toss competition, live music and tethered hot air balloon rides.
Adam Steely, a member of the Williamsburg EDA and organizer of the event, said they chose these activities because they were looking for things that gave off a traditional Americana feel, such as selling popcorn and coke for five cents.
“It’s really not about money, we just really wanted to a throwback to old-time Americana, and a nickel seemed like a fun way to do that,” said Michelle DeWitt, Williamsburg’s economic development director.
Originally, Steely said he thought of hot air balloons because they seemed like they would be eye-catching and fun for visitors.
“The timing of hot air ballooning really came up with the USA,” Steely said.
Gilbert Martin, a hot air balloon pilot with Balloons Over Virginia, said the first hot air balloon flight was in Versailles in 1783, the same year the Peace of Paris was signed for the American Revolution.
“Hot air balloons, as Glibert was just saying, really have a tie to American history,” Steely said.
Hannah Thornton, a visitor from Raleigh, North Carolina, said she rode the hot air balloon because it was on her bucket list.
“It was amazing,” Thorton said. “You’re just floating there going up and down and you think it’s exactly how a bubble feels.”
Next, was the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg’s July 4th Ice Cream Social. Guests enjoyed hot dogs, soda and, of course, ice cream while listening to the Michael Clark Band perform. Bill Bunnell, a club member and event organizer, said the group decided to take the event over after the Auxillary of Sentara Williamsburg Regional Hospital stopped hosting it.
“We’re excited about offering to the community a Fourth of July Ice Cream Social which used to be a staple in the community,” Bunnell said. “So we’re hoping we can get it back to the way it was.”
More to come
Today’s festivities will conclude with Lights of Freedom fireworks display above the Governor’s Palace from 9-9:40 p.m.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.