Most towns have traditions. For Clayton and Archer Lodge, those traditions don’t get much bigger than their July 4 celebrations.
The Town of Clayton’s annual celebration stretches back decades, probably more than 35 years, said Larry Bailey, parks and recreation director. Since joining the town in 1980, Bailey has helped coordinate most of the Independence Day events, which are held at Municipal Park on West Stallings Street.
While this year’s celebration includes newer facets like a cornhole tournament and a self-defense demonstration, it will also boast the same sack races, water-balloon tosses and egg and spoon walks that have accompanied the event for years.
Bailey said the town makes sure to include free watermelon and ice cream each year, one of the longest-running traditions.
“It’s kind of changed and evolved over the years,” Bailey said, adding that the beach music band Jim Quick and Coastline is scheduled to perform this year.
The celebration starts at 4 p.m. Friday, with the games and entertainment leading up to the fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. The town includes $20,000 in its budget for the fireworks show, which Clayton promotes as the largest of its kind in Johnston County.
Bailey said the town contracts with Bay Fireworks of New York to put on the display, which is about a 25-minute show.
Municipal Park is one of the highest points in Clayton’s town limits, so residents can view the fireworks from several areas throughout the town. “But we encourage everyone to come to the park,” Bailey said. “It’s a much better experience.”
About seven miles northeast, the Archer Lodge Community Center plans to celebrate the holiday on Saturday with its annual 5K race, parade and fireworks show. Like last year, Archer Lodge’s celebration will also include a performance by the Army Ground Forces Band from Fort Bragg.
“It’s off-the-charts good,” Community Center president Dene Castleberry said of the band, which will play from 7:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., when the fireworks will start.
Family Fun Day, as the celebration is formally known, has become the premier event in the town of about 4,400 people. Like all other events, shows and sports leagues the Community Center hosts, the July 4 celebration is put on by volunteers.
“It’s good for the children and for the community,” Castleberry said. “I think that’s what has kept us doing it for so long.”
The Archer Lodge celebration officially kicked off June 29 with the Little Miss Archer Lodge Pageant. On Saturday, the events start at 7 a.m. with a 5K race and fun run; the parade begins at 2 p.m. For the hungry, the Communty Center will have barbecue plates from the annual pig cook-off, plus hot dogs, homemade fries and ice cream.
“The whole idea is to bring a lawn chair, get something to eat and settle down and listen to the band,” Castleberry said.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104