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Star-spangled events
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 Newton County has long been a place for family and fellowship, and the Independence Day holiday is no exception.

 The city of Covington, Newton County and The Church at Covington will hold its annual Fireworks Extravaganza on July 4 at the church on Ga. Highway 142 in Oxford.

 Entertainment will begin at 5 p.m. as the jazz band Drivetime will take the stage in the first of four concerts throughout the evening. For those who like sounds from the 70s and 80s, Blue Max will perform covers of some of the era's biggest hits followed by the all female country group Broadband.

 For the kids, the Extravaganza will feature 14 to 16 inflatable bounce houses scattered throughout the grounds, and the whole family can enjoy food from several vendors including Chick-fil-A, Checkers, Blimpie and Shane's Rib Shack.

 The fireworks show begins at 9:30 p.m., rain or shine, and will take place even if officials need to change the time. Following the fireworks, Twisted Hip will perform disco and R&B music until 11 p.m..

 Pastor David Payne and his staff have worked with the county and local businesses to bring what he hopes will be the biggest event ever to the church.

 According to Payne, it takes between $40,000 and $50,000 to put on the event. This year, the church received a $25,000 donation from nine local Wal-Mart stores to help offset the costs.

 "We reached out to the community and made a case showing we could use some financial help, and Wal-Mart came through with the big donation and we're very grateful," Payne said. "Because this is a proven event, Wal-Mart decided to help us out."

 This year also marks the fourth event in which the city and county have worked together with the church to put on the Extravaganza. Both will provide volunteers and police to aid in the safety and organization of the events.

 Payne says parking and traffic will be directed through the Ga. Highway 142 entrance. He urges patrons to show up at least 30 minutes before the fireworks show.

 "The bands are going to be really good this year," Payne said. "I urge everyone to stay late after the fireworks with it being a weekend and all."

 All of the events and even parking are free of charge. While the vendors will charge for food and drinks, Payne encourages people to bring their own food but asks that everyone leave portable grills at home.

"It's been a great event for the city and the community," Payne said. "It's very family oriented and it's about the community coming together and having a blast."

Oxford parade

 If you're looking for a taste of Southern tradition, Oxford will hold its annual parade beginning at 10 a.m.

The parade will run down Emory and Wesley streets and will end at the Old Church on Fletcher Street.

Each year residents showcase their creativity with floats and decorated vehicles.

"It's probably one of the largest Fourth of July parades in the state," said city council member Jim Windham. "This is a true down-home parade that has everything from decorated floats to lawnmowers."

Windham said everyone is welcome to attend or participate, and those who want to enter a float or vehicle must register by 9:30 a.m. across from Allen Memorial Methodist Church on the Oxford College campus.

The Oxford Lion's Club, along with the city, will sponsor the events, and there will be plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy. After the parade ends at Old Church, judges will look at all of the floats and vehicles and award ribbons and cash.

Participants can enjoy concessions and plenty of free watermelon once at the park, as the day full of activities will go on for as long as people are willing to hang around.

"I've never made it to the end of the day," Windham said, "but I know people stick around for a long time."

 Along with the activities, Oxford will honor a local resident and former mayor, W.D. "Don" Ballard, as the citizen of the year.

"We really enjoy the parade a lot," said Jerry Roseberry, Oxford mayor. "The folks in the town enjoy getting together and we get a lot of out-of-town visitors, who come in to share the events."

Roseberry added he hopes everyone will be safe during the parade and asked that objects not be thrown from the floats during on route to the church.

 "We don't want anything bad to happen, or any children to get run over after trying to retrieve something in front of a float or car," he said.

Windham says the parade brings out Oxford's small town roots, something he compares to Mayberry from the "Andy Griffith Show."

 "It's a small town parade where everyone celebrates who and what we are," Windham said. "The parade is really something special."

Porterdale celebration

Capping off the Independence Day weekend, Porterdale will host its Patriot's Day celebration on July 5.

In her first large event since becoming head of the city's Better Downtown program, Sandy Fowler expects the event to highlight the city's new direction and the progress the community has made in becoming a must-see destination in Newton County.

"This will be the first year we get to show off the historic train depot, and we are excited about the events we have planned," Fowler said.

Speaking of events, Fowler said there will be plenty of activities for the whole family to do. Beginning at 3 p.m., children can play in one of the many inflatable houses on hand or take their shot at the Moonblast bungee ride.

Local resident and Adopt-A-Horse founder Dennis Horian, will be on hand with horses for children to ride, and vendors will line the south side of Ga. Highway 81 in downtown, selling food and arts and crafts. There will be plenty of music as well.

Cruisn' will headline the event, playing oldies, country and R&B favorites, and Fiddlin' John Carson Productions will play into the night. Both shows will be at the train depot where the old boarding platform will double as a stage.

The event, sponsored by Georgia Power and BB&T, will conclude with a fireworks show over the river at 9 p.m.

Fowler says the Patriot's Day fits nicely into the schedule of events throughout the county.

"I hope it's a true success and I am looking forward to many more events in the future," she said. "I plan to turn this event into many more successful events down the road."