Heavy rain didn't dampen July 4 in Haywood

By Vicki Hyatt | Jul 08, 2013

Heavy rains over the July 4 holiday weekend might have dampened the atmosphere, but didn’t deter many of the planned activities across the county.

By early July 5, Haywood County received 4.85 inches at the Mountain Research Station outside of Waynesville, one of the official weather data collection centers in the county. Historical records show the average rainfall for these days is about half an inch.

Nonetheless, fireworks displays in Maggie Valley and Lake Junaluska went off as planned, as did the daytime festivities long-scheduled in several communities for Independence Day.

“It was amazing,” said Ken Howle, marketing director for Lake Junaluska. “There was a break in the rain for the parade, which was phenomenal, and then again for the fireworks.”

Even though the heavy rain forecast was an almost guarantee of a rainy July 4, Howle said rescheduling the fireworks was not an option.

“We could either go ahead or cancel,” Howle said, and we didn’t think cancelling would be appropriate. We’re very thankful to the pyrotechnic crew that they were able to safely get off what they did.”

Unfortunately a portion of the fireworks — those intended for the grand finale — got wet and failed to discharge. Howle expressed thanks to the emergency and safety crew of about 75 who helped guide decisions that ensured safety for all.

Lake Junaluska’s usual Independence Day celebration was woven into its 100th anniversary events. Despite the steady downpour for the celebration, Howle said the participation has been outstanding.

“We had the largest turnout in over 10 years at Lake Junaluska Singers concert July 3 even in the middle of the rain,” he said.

For the 11 a.m. parade, it was serendipitous the clouds cleared and there was no rain on the parade.

For the picnic that followed, about 600 people showed up to enjoy a barbecue lunch, live music, bouncy houses, face painting and balloon twisting.

In past years when the weather has been sunny and inviting, the crowd has been about 800, said Howle, so to have close to a full house during a day when rains were torrential at time was just as spectacular as the hour-long reprieve during the parade and the time it took the crowd to move into the Nanci Weldom open air gym where they could stay dry.

Vickie Best, Maggie Valley town clerk, said the Red, White and Boom event was slow during the day, "but by 9 p.m. people were lined up for the fireworks." She said there were at least 1,000 people in the festival grounds alone, plus all the people watching from their cars on Soco Road.

From what she heard, spectators were very pleased with the display, which lasted about 25 minutes. This was the first year the town contracted Zambelli fireworks.

In Waynesville, the intermittent rain on July 4 didn't stop the planned festivities in downtown Waynesville.

An outdoor cookout, music on the street, face painting and more made Independence Day a special event. Most carried umbrellas or simply stood beneath the many store awnings when rain became heavier.

For Gene and Deeanna Baldwin of Columbia, South Carolina, their long weekend was off to a great start.

"We come here as often as we can," said Gene. "We like Haywood County, but there's just something magical about Waynesville."

Elizabeth Martinez of Asheville said her family decided to head to Waynesville in search of a daytime festival to attend.

"This is our first year in the area," she said, "and there's nothing going on until evening.

The scheduled 11 a.m. children's parade was cancelled, but other events were unhampered.

“I thought it went extremely well. The town was busy, the shops had a lot of customers and the restaurants were full. We had a lot of positive comments about the whole day,” said Buffy Phillips, Downtown Waynesville Association executive director.