Southport and Oak Island host first full force NC 4th of July Festival since pandemic

OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) — Southport and Oak Island are sparkling like its the Fourth of July. Though it drizzled on and off this evening, hundreds of men and women camped out waiting for the first events of the weekend.

Southport has played host to the North Carolina 4th of July Festival since the 1790’s. The parade and other weekend events are so much apart of the town’s DNA that born and raised residents like Randy Jones can’t imagine going without it.

“It’s that important, I mean we all, it’s our homecoming, it’s a chance for everybody to get together and catch up,” Jones explained. “But it’s also a chance to show off our town. People come from all over the state, all over the country to learn what our North Carolina Fourth of July Festival is all about.”

And yet to a certain extent, that’s exactly what residents have had to do. The festival adapted as the pandemic raged, holding events virtually, spreading them out to Oak Island, and sometimes cancelling them all together.

This is the first year since the pandemic Southport and Oak Island can hold the festival together in full force. Mayor Liz White believes attendance could be higher than ever.

“Oh in record crowds. I’m sure,” she shouted at Friday’s concert. “Southport was closed down because of the pandemic last year. So we are so grateful to be their partner, and this fourth of July weekend we’ve split the events across both communities.”

Crowds also showed out in full force Friday. Darlene Penniger and Bonnie Nodine have come to the festival for years. They got to Friday’s concert and hour early with beach chairs and umbrellas, braving the weekend weather to enjoy a beloved tradition.

Nodine: “I think it’s great. People are ready.”

Reporter: “You definitely seem dedicated.”

Penninger: “*laughs* We’re old!”

Locally owned businesses, like Sweetreat say they’ve been training for this day. After three years of abridged festivals, they’re thrilled to see a crowd again.

“It’s good for business. All the other local businesses are super excited for this week,” manager Derek Astoske exclaimed.

Oak Island set off the first fireworks of the festival Friday at nine. Southport will host a fireworks show on the 4th starting at 9pm on the Southport waterfront.

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