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Forsyth County celebrates Independence Day with annual parade, festivities amid pandemic
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Many from Forsyth County and North Georgia came out to downtown Cumming this Fourth of July to celebrate in the city's all-day festivities while others stayed home amid coronavirus worries, missing out on the beloved tradition for the first time in years. 

Spectators crowded into downtown Cumming this Independence Day to celebrate, starting at 10 a.m. with the city's 63rd annual Thomas Mashburn Steam Engine Parade. Later in the evening, the city also held its festival, complete with vendors and live music, which then led to the fireworks show starting at 9:30 p.m. 

The city did have to change up its plans this year as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise in Georgia. While many other cities throughout the state canceled their usual public Fourth of July events, the city of Cumming made the decision to push forward with its traditions. Some small changes included signage at the festival and along the parade route that encouraged social distancing as well as downsizing the annual festival at the fairgrounds. 

“It doesn’t really feel much different,” attendee Greg McCain said. “I come every year, and you know it feels like the same old parade we know and love and come back for each year. We might be slowly going deaf from those tractors — or steam engines — but you know, we love it.” 

The sidewalks around Tribble Gap Road from Forsyth Central High School down to the Cumming Fairgrounds filled up early, as spectators set up chairs and pulled out their American flags in anticipation of the parade. Many ended up watching the parade from inside of their cars or setting up a spot to sit further back, and some were unable to stay back the recommended six feet from each other as they crowded onto the sidewalk. 

Those at the parade looked on in excitement as the steam engines rolled out into view, and kids rushed to the street as residents and business owners on the parade floats threw candy into the crowd and sprayed water on passersby. 

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Some who had not attended the parade but saw photos and videos online commented that they were astonished by the number of those not wearing masks and not social distancing. 

“Not staying 6 feet apart and not many mask[s],” Forsyth County resident Annett Savage wrote in a comment on Facebook. “Glad I didn’t go. I see an uptick in numbers of COVID again in a few weeks.” 

Many others said that they were not worried about coming out to celebrate, and they were happy to find out earlier that the city of Cumming was still planning to go all out for the Fourth of July. While the majority of parade goers did not wear a mask, some said that it is important that residents have the choice to wear one or not. 

“Cumming is not big on masks as our numbers are quite low,” Laura Simon said. “Praise the Lord, and I hope it stays that way. I tend to take mine on and off as I feel I need it and take care of myself.” 

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Following the parade, the city held its annual festival at the Cumming Fairgrounds. Without the usual pie- and hot dog-eating contests, games and dance contest this year, the festival was considerably smaller, but plenty of locals still came out to enjoy some food and rest. 

Venders and food stands were set up around the picnic tables near the barn in the fairground for those waiting on fireworks to enjoy everything from tacos at Granny Lou’s food truck to classic funnel cakes and handmade ice cream. While they were snacking, attendees also checked out clothes from local boutiques such as Stine’s Styles Motiques, and others even headed toward a booth where they could register to vote. 

As the day went on, more and more people put out lawn chairs, tents and blankets, getting ready for the firework show. 

“I was a little worried about coming out, especially if people aren’t thinking they need to be safe if they can, but I have got to come out to see the fireworks,” Anderson Brown said. “It’s the best part of the Fourth. You just come out with your kids, lay back in a chair and take it in. It’s got to be my favorite part every year.”