GATLINBURG (WATE) – Gatlinburg is getting a head start on celebrating Independence Day.
“It’s fun! It’s exciting,” said Delois Mitchell, visiting Gatlinburg from Kentucky.
The 42nd annual midnight parade gets started at 12:01 a.m. and is called the first July Fourth parade in the nation.
“This is just one of those added value opportunities and one of those things that they can go back and say they got to be a part of the first parade in the nation,” said Marci Claude, PR Manager for the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.Related: JULY 4TH EVENTS: Where to celebrate around our region
This year the city is honoring the firefighters and law enforcement officers who responded to the November wildfires as the grand marshals of the parade.
Since the November wildfires, the Gatlinburg Fourth of July Parade is one of the biggest events the city has held. They have been encouraging people to come back into town, and many have been lining their chairs up since Sunday to get the perfect parade viewing spot.
“A tradition of ours is to get a Fannie Farkle dog and a corn dog at the July Fourth parade so we always like to be close to it,” said Allen Fain from South Carolina.
Fain said it is a yearly trip for his family to see the parade. They picked out their spot on the sidewalk early Monday morning.
“We love bringing our kids and families here so it’s important that they see that there’s still things to do,” Fain said.
The midnight parade is a chance to not only have a little fun on the Fourth, but also a chance for the visitors to say thank you to the firefighters and first responders who are the grand marshals of the parade.
“I think it’s great. They deserve it,” Mitchell said.
Fain said, “The work that they’ve done has truly helped this town. They need to be recognized for that so that’s pretty cool.”
You can expect to see groups from all over the eastern part of the country at the midnight parade. The US Air Force Honor Guard Marching Military will be in the parade along with the 129th Army Band from Nashville and marching bands from Maryland and Minnesota.
Independence Day activities continue through Tuesday with the River Raft Regatta at noon and fireworks at 10 p.m.