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Big wheels, weekend on tap
Celebrate with fireworks Friday, parade Saturday
Steam Engines 4 es
Michael Bagwell fixes the hitch on a trailer holding his 1888 Peerless steam engine. - photo by Emily Saunders

Local festivities

• Fireworks: Friday's festivities kick off at 6 p.m. when vendors open at the Cumming Fairgrounds. Music begins at 7:30 p.m., with fireworks set for 9:30 p.m. A dance contest follows at 10 p.m.  This year the fireworks will launch from behind the fairgrounds instead of across the street. 

• Parade: The 52nd annual Thomas-Mashburn Steam Engine Parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Forsyth Central High School, traveling south along Castleberry Road and ending at the Cumming Fairgrounds.

• Race: Annual turtle race in parking lot of Foster House restaurant, 305 West Main St. in Cumming. For more information, contact (770) 887-9905, or go online at

• Show: Jason Petty stars as the late Hank Williams Sr. during one performance only at the Cumming Playhouse, 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15 and can be ordered online at

• Contact: For more information, call (770) 781-3491 or go online at

Get ready for a fun-filled, patriotic weekend in Cumming, complete with fireworks, music and the roar of classic steam engines.

The food and festivities get under way about 6 p.m. Friday at the Cumming Fairgrounds, where there also will be art, games and a rock wall.

Music from the Andrew Black Band and various local artists cranks up at 7:30 p.m., with fireworks to follow about 9:30 p.m.

“It seems like it has grown about every year,” said Dave Horton, fairgrounds administrator. “I think for one, [people] know we have a good fireworks show.

“It’s just a fun evening ... people come out as groups and sit, socialize and wait for the fireworks to come.”

The evening’s events conclude with a dance contest at 10 p.m.

For Melissa Durand, however, the real party begins 12 hours later at the Thomas-Mashburn Steam Engine Parade.

“That’s a really big family reunion for us,” said Durand, a descendent of parade founder A.G. Thomas. “It’s laid back. It’s not a stuffy thing and the [family] always eats after the parade. It’s a potluck meal.”

The 34-year-old daughter of Thomas Lumber owner Bobby Thomas has missed just three parades in her life, once due to a trip to Washington, D.C., and twice while in Europe.

“I’d call home and they’re blowing the steam engines in the phone when I’ve had to miss it, and I’m on the other end of the phone almost crying because I’m not at the steam engine parade,” she said.

Early in 2008, Durand was injured in a car wreck that resulted in a two-month hospital stay and three months of rehabilitation. While it was a long road to recovery, the parade kept her positive.

“I was determined I would help drive a steam engine,” she said. “I had to be there.”

Durand made it to the 2008 July Fourth parade, helping cousin Joey Moore steer one of the machines. With three engines in her immediate family, and countless others among extended family, Durand hasn’t decided which one to ride Saturday morning.

Beginning at 10 a.m., the procession will roll down Castleberry Road from Forsyth Central High School to the fairgrounds.

The day’s festivities conclude about 1 p.m. with a turtle race at the Foster House.