Attendees watch as fireworks light up the sky. Athens hosted its annual Star Spangled Classic July Fourth celebration in downtown Athens, Georgia on June 29, 2019. (Photo/Ryan Cameron rac86114@uga.edu)

Athenians gathered for the 2019 Star Spangled Classic on Clayton Street to celebrate Independence Day with food, live music and a fireworks show on June 29.

“We have staff from the police department, solid waste, leisure services, central services, sheriff’s office,” Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services’ community relations specialist Cathy Padgett said. “This is a big event and it takes a lot of people and multiple departments in the government to put it on. It’s a success because of a lot of people.”

The family-friendly event featured face painting, children’s performers, shaved ice and ice cream thanks to ACC Leisure Services, several sponsors who organized the event and accompanying vendors.

One such vendor was Ted Thompson, owner of Kona Ice. Originally drawn to this event in an effort to spur his business in 2014, Kona Ice appeared for the fifth year in a row, Thompson said.

“We just love being down here with the people,” Thompson said. “It’s just a fun place to be.”

Other aspects of the celebration are mainstays as well, such as live music. While the Funk Brotherhood has performed for this festival before, this year the band got to perform on a new stage. With the ACC leisure services’ old portable stage retiring, the government purchased a new one. The new stage boasts easier maintenance, more performing room and a better experience for the audience, Padgett said.

While Padgett said the event has always been held the Saturday before July 4, the event’s location has not been as consistent.

In the past, the Star Spangled Classic has been held in Bishop Park and at the Georgia Square Mall. For a period of time after the 2008 recession, ACC cut the event from its budget.

However, private donations and sponsors kept the event alive for a few more years as the location was changed.

From 2016 to 2018, the ACC Government has hosted the event downtown.

This year, the celebration was held at Clayton Street so festival-goers could better see the fireworks launched from the Classic Center, marketing program specialist Aimee Cheek said.

“We want this festival to be the best experience for our residents and visitors, and we want the location to reflect that,” Cheek said. “Downtown is a great location and this is a great opportunity to bring all of Athens together.”

Fireworks drew the evening to a close with a bang around 9:30 p.m.

“The great thing about celebrating Independence Day, it doesn’t require anything. You just have to want to celebrate your country’s birthday,” Padgett said.

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