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Newton County celebrates Independence
Covington fireworks 2023
Cities of Covington, Porterdale and Oxford hosted July Fourth celebrations last weekend. - photo by Courtesy of the city of Covington

COVINGTON, Ga. – Fireworks, music and patriotism echoed across Newton County this week as Covington, Porterdale and Oxford hosted Fourth of July celebrations in observance of the United States’ 247th birthday.

Festivities commemorating the holiday began as early as Saturday, July 1 with the City of Porterdale’s Fourth of July event, followed by Oxford’s parade Tuesday afternoon and wrapping up with Covington’s Independence in the Park fireworks Tuesday night.

Covington ‘hits the mark’ with this year’s Independence in the Park

Covington hosted its annual Independence in the Park event on Tuesday evening, welcoming visitors near and far to the Square for the highly anticipated celebration. Live music and fireworks ignited what turned out to be Covington’s “biggest” and “best” July Fourth yet.

Covington 4th of July crowd
- photo by Courtesy of the city of Covington

Ken Malcom, community development director, considers Covington’s fireworks spectacle to be one of the best in the southeast, with this year’s festivities drawing in its biggest crowd yet.

“We feel very strongly that it was our biggest and our best,” Malcom said. “The Square was noticeably full earlier than the previous years. People kept coming. Even during the fireworks, people were still coming to the square area, which is where you really want to experience the event.”

Drawing in a sizable crowd each year, Covington’s Independence in the Park event requires extensive planning and implementation of safety protocols, such as the Covington Police Department’s “Operation Red, White & Go!” plan to ease the flow of traffic following the pyrotechnics.

Contagious Band
- photo by Courtesy of the city of Covington

“It’s by far the largest event that we have in the city,” Malcom said. “It takes a large number of our city staff and some volunteers to put this on. So many people work very hard. They pour a lot of their heart and soul into making this the best. I don’t know how they could top last year’s, but they did it somehow.” 

In efforts to combat the brutal afternoon heat, musical acts Noah Teal and Contagious Band hit the stage at 6 and 8 p.m., respectively, followed by the city’s firework display at 9:45 p.m.

“With temperatures in the 90s and then the pavement out there being much hotter than that, for safety reasons, having an all day festival on the Square from morning and until the time of the [firework] show can be too much on your body,” Malcom said. “So, we focused our efforts through our community development department to put on a great concert in the evening hours when temperatures have cooled.”

Malcom has experienced Independence in the Park from several perspectives, from being the current community development director to previously serving as Covington Police captain. Occupational titles aside, Malcom shared the feelings of pride he feels for the city as a longtime local.

“I watch people, I watch their reaction to it,” Malcom said. “To hear the children, the ‘Oohs’ and ‘Ahhs’ of the children on their daddy’s shoulders looking up into the sky, their faces being lit up by the fireworks and seeing them smile... that’s the reward. To see families making memories in our downtown area.”

“I love to see people posting pictures and their caption is, ‘my little town,’ or, ‘my sweet town,’ or something like that,” Malcom said. “We feel like we hit the mark. And when I say we, it’s an army of folks. We appreciate the downtown businesses that support this so much. It’s neat to see places like Mystic Grill open their rooftop [and] [The] Social Goat have their balcony. So many other downtown businesses embrace the event.”

Porterdale’s ‘all-American Fourth of July’ celebration perseveres through rain

Despite the interruption of rain and gloomy weather, the City of Porterdale’s July Fourth celebration on Saturday, July 1 remained unhindered. Food trucks, live music, fireworks, inflatables and a wrestling match were embraced by citizens looking to commemorate the holiday early over the weekend.

Porterdale Mayor Arline Chapman shared her thoughts on the event’s attendance.

“I thought that the turnout was very good considering the weather was relatively disastrous. It rained just about, I would say five o’clock or so,” Chapman said. “It started to rain and that always throws a monkey wrench into the works. But when all was said and done, it stopped in time for the band to crank up on the stage and folks to come in. And there were a lot of folks. It was just [a] typical, all American Fourth of July.”

The evening kicked off with a wrestling match in the city’s Main Street Alley at 6 p.m. Food vendors began serving meals at 6:30 p.m. as the rain began, yet the downpour did not cease the influx of hungry customers, as several vendors ran out of food. Atlanta-based musical group, GlowBand, provided live entertainment from 7:15 p.m. up until the fireworks began around 9:30 p.m. 

According to Post 4 councilmember Jill Minnoia, the event’s organization was a combined group effort between the Porterdale Police Department and Porterdale Public Works.

“I think the fact that we all worked together to make the event a success made it one of Porterdale’s best July Fourth celebrations,” Minnoia said.

The night ended on a spirited, undamped high note. Porterdale’s Fourth of July festivities concluded with a fireworks display presented by Central Newton Mercantile.

“Everybody seemed very happy and enjoying themselves. And I think from my perspective as the mayor, I’m happy when everybody’s happy,” Chapman said. “I think we had a very congenial group of people enjoying themselves, mixing and mingling, and folks that I know probably were visiting from other places as well as our local folks, so I think it was good. Unfortunately, the weather would put a little damper on it, but by and large, I think under the circumstances it was a good Fourth of July.”

Oxford’s July Fourth donors allow citizens to enjoy festivities at ‘no cost’

Oxford Fourth of July parade 2023
- photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

The streets of Oxford overflowed with parade floats and parade-goers Tuesday morning as Oxford’s July Fourth parade and celebration commenced at 10 a.m. Festivities at Asbury Street Park ensued after the parade’s finale where food vendors, live music and fun activities were provided to the public.

A petting zoo, photo booth, caricature artist and bubble station were set up in Asbury Street Park for visitors to enjoy, along with free water, watermelon, ice cream, t-shirts, swag items and a raffle entry.

The complimentary goodies were made possible through donations from local churches, organizations and sponsors such as Allen Memorial Church, Journey Church and the Oxford Lions Club.

Sydney Chacon, event coordinator for the City of Oxford, expressed her gratitude to the donors who contributed supplies and money for the celebration.

“This is definitely the biggest event that the City of Oxford does,” Chacon said. “This year, we actually made it a little bit bigger because we did get more vendors out there and everything was free except for the food vendors. So that was a big part of it as well. People that came out were able to enjoy themselves and it was at no cost to them.”

Cheryl Ready was chosen as the Grand Marshal for the morning’s patriotic parade.

The parade included a competition with seven categories and was judged by the Lions Club.

Best Car:

Conyers Shriners

Oxford parade 2023
- photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

Best Equine/Equine Group:

The Mane Event (Amber Sawyer)

Best Float:

We Are Family (Vicki Cowan)

Best Bicycle:

Oxford College Farm

Best Truck:

Pack 211 Cub Scouts

Best Antique Tractor: 

NCTCC (Kenny Crumley)

Best Go-Cart/ATV:

Slingshots – ASC, Sing Queenz, & C’Town Riders

After everything had concluded Tuesday afternoon, Chacon realized why she looks forward to this event each year.

Though the afternoon had reached scorching temperatures, Oxford’s Fourth of July festivities were attended by a couple hundred people.

“It was pretty good. It was obviously very hot,” Chacon said. “But for the parade, we had a lot of people that registered for that and [were] in the parade. We had a good turnout for people watching the parade and then at the actual park. Everybody out celebrating and enjoying themselves – that was probably the best part.”