Though Forsyth County has more than 200,000 residents, there was a small town feel in the air during the city of Cumming’s Fourth of July parade, complete with Sheriff Ron Freeman driving a Mayberry squad car and playing the theme song to "The Andy Griffith Show."
Downtown Cumming and the Cumming Fairgrounds were packed with both local residents and visitors from out of town on Wednesday celebrating Independence Day. The day kicked off in the morning with the 61st Thomas-Mashburn Steam Engine Parade, which led to a full-day event at the fairgrounds before a firework finale in the evening.
“I could not have asked for a better day,” said Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow. “The turnout was amazing. I don’t know the numbers yet, but I know all you saw was wall-to-wall people on end to the other at the fairgrounds and everything was tremendous.”
At the morning’s parade, the sidewalks and parking lots along Castleberry Road were filled with spectators who braved both the heat and the loud whistles of the steam engines.
“[It’s] very loud, but it’s fun,” said Maitland Gilbert, who came to the parade with 11-month-old son Joshua, who was celebrating his first Independence Day. “He’s enjoying it pretty good.”
After several of the antique steam engines made their way through downtown, other vehicles, floats and trailers followed. Many of the parade participants threw out candy, knickknacks and sprayed spectators with water.
“We try to have a little bit of everything,” said Michael Gorlovsky, a practitioner at Windermere Orthodontics who dressed as Uncle Sam during the parade. “We have beach balls, Frisbees, sunglasses, candy, cinch bags, our love.”
David Cruthirds showed up to the parade with his wife and sons and said it was the family’s first year in the county, “so what better way to celebrate that come out here and all of this?”
Cruthirds said he enjoyed the “small town feel of the parade,” even if he underestimated its size.
“This is huge. We thought we’d get here an hour early and we’d be fine, and we were wrong,” he said. “I’ve heard of people parking their trucks here overnight and getting here at 6 in the morning. We at least got a decent spot, so I’m happy about that.”
Following the parade, the Cumming Fairgrounds hosted an all-day event featuring food, live music, a dance contest and a dunking booth that 14 local elected officials and candidates climbed into.
The dunk tank raised a total of $1,735 for Creative Enterprises, a local program for adults with special needs, Brumbalow said.
Brumbalow, who took part in the parade and dunk tank, also got involved in one of the three eating contests, deciding to go with pizza over hot dogs or pie.
“The guy that won finished an entire 12-inch pizza in the time it took me to eat two slices out of eight,” he said. “He ate an entire pizza in the time that I ate a quarter of a pizza. After I finished one piece, I looked down and I see he’s got like half a pizza folded in a wad and just shoveling it in. I thought, ‘well, that’s it; I’m just going to enjoy it because it is good pizza.’”
One major change this year was holding fireworks the same day as the parade, instead of on July 3 as had been the case in previous years.
“Everybody I talked to loved it,” Brumbalow said. “They mentioned too that they loved the other events, and how it feels like a small town community again. I think all those things come into play.”