July 4th celebration ignites downtown Fayetteville - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

July 4th celebration ignites downtown Fayetteville

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Fireworks rise above Festival Park in Fayetteville Thursday night. Fireworks rise above Festival Park in Fayetteville Thursday night.
Jeff Wells Jeff Wells
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

Thousands of people in Fayetteville enjoyed an Independence Day celebration that was a significant change from what the community has come to expect. Festival Park had an overflow crowd Thursday night for a celebration that include food and drink vendors, live music and a fireworks show.

For decades, many people in the Fayetteville area enjoyed the Fourth of July celebration on post at Fort Bragg. However, in April, forced spending cuts led Fort Bragg and other military bases nationwide to cancel their annual July celebrations.

The city of Fayetteville began quietly working on a substitute event for the community, and the efforts got a big boost. The city won the "Red, White and You" contest that provided significant funding for the live music and substantial fireworks display.

Fort Bragg-based Army soldier Jeff Wells wrote the brief essay that led to Fayetteville winning the contest. He said his father read about the contest and told him it may be worth a try to enter.

Wells wrote 138 words – just less than the 150-word limit. He admits he probably spent only about ten minutes on the essay, but obviously his heartfelt message got the right attention.

"When there wasn't going to be Fort Bragg fireworks, which the community looks forward to, it was a disappointment for all of them, and I think they all deserve to have a fireworks celebration, absolutely," Wells said.

His essay also talked about Fort Bragg being the "center of the Army Universe." He said he worries that some soldiers may feel like support for troops is waning as the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.

"I don't want soldiers to think that they're not still supported," Wells said. "I think it's great to reinforce to them, like I said in the essay, to be reminded that they still have the support."

The magazine "USA Weekend" and the cable TV channel "Destination America," which is part of the Discovery network, ran the contest. During Thursday's celebration, "Destination America" led the way as the hosting sponsor.

Other local partners included Reed-Lallier Chevrolet, Huske Hardware House and the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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