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Celebrate America draws large crowd

June 29, 2008 : Eric Brown

Days before July 4, Thomas Road Baptist Church gave church members and the greater Lynchburg community the chance to celebrate their country’s freedom and independence.

The church held its annual Celebrate America extravaganza June 29 at Liberty University's Williams Stadium, with a plethora of food and fun activities for the whole family.

The entrance to the stadium resembled a carnival midway as food vendors and public service booths attracted lines of people. The LU Police Department estimated the crowd to be 12,000-15,000.

Prior to the God and Country celebration, which took place on the field’s 50-yard line, children flocked to a field full of inflatable rides behind the stadium. The fun also extended to East Campus, where a car show was held outside Doc’s Diner.

A parade of bikers roared into the stadium, revving up the crowd for the evening celebration. Former Washington Redskins players Art Monk, Darrell Green and Gary Clark shared brief testimonies and words of encouragement, and then the audience was treated to hits from the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s. Afterward, Virginia Del. Kathy Byron and Sen. Steve Newman presented the new Jerry Falwell Parkway sign, a result of a resolution to name a portion of U.S. 460 after the late Dr. Jerry Falwell.

Other local politicians spoke at the event, including former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, candidate for U.S. Senate.

Veterans were also honored with an armed forces medley and were given medals for their service. Richie McDonald, former lead singer of country band Lonestar, was the special guest musician for the evening, performing several of his greatest hits.

As the music faded and stage lights dimmed, the dark skies over the stadium gave way to a grand fireworks display.

The activities did not cease after the fireworks ended, as children continued to enjoy the rides up until midnight and crews worked hard to dismantle the stage.

Celebrate America is typically held on the Sunday before July 4. It is one of the largest public events held at Liberty University each year.