By Joel Hall
Locals who may be commuting out of the state for the Fourth of July will have a chance to celebrate it one week early in Morrow.
This Saturday, from 6 p.m., to 10 p.m., rain or shine, the City of Morrow will host it's 19th annual SummerFest on the Green. The patriotic, musical, entertainment-filled celebration and fireworks display will take place at 5917 Reynolds Road in Morrow, on the field located between Morrow Elementary School and the Reynold's Nature Preserve.
Once a local event with an average attendance of 600 people, within the last three years, the event has blossomed into a regional event, which last year, was attended by nearly 4,500 people.
"We changed the model of this event about three years ago," said Mike Twomey, president and director of the Morrow Business and Tourism Association (MBTA). Since then, the city has brought in headlining bands, more vendors, and games and activities for people of all ages, such as a rock climbing wall, moon walks, and hot air balloon rides.
"We publicize it now and we let people know that this is not just a City of Morrow event," said Twomey. "It is basically a Fourth of July celebration, but just a week before."
Dubbed by the city as one of the largest fireworks displays in the region, the celebration draws visitors from as far as Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama, according to Twomey. This year, the celebration will be the site of the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) Chili Cook-Off. For $1, visitors will be able to sample various regional chilies and the best chili will be chosen by a panel of trained judges.
This year's musical opening act will be Crystal and the Cruizers, an Atlanta-based party band, which plays a combination of music from the genres of big band, soul, rhythm and blues, country, pop, and classic rock. The headlining band will be Party Nation, which performed as the opening act for last year's SummerFest on the Green.
John Lampl, Morrow city manager, said because the event has been consistently held the Saturday before Independence Day, more people have marked it on their calendars.
"It usually gets a little complicated during the week when it gets closer to a holiday weekend," said Lampl. SummerFest on the Green is "something that you can plan for. It's something that you always know is coming."
Lampl said the most unique part of the event is the fireworks display, which rounds off the evening.
"Because of the layout of where they shoot those fireworks, it seems to be right in front of you, not just at a distance," said Lampl. "Every year, people stand up and clap. When they applaud on their own, it's lets you know that people left feeling pretty good."
The event is free to the public and food and beverages will be available for purchase. Visitors can reserve a VIP table directly in front of the stage for $25 by contacting the MBTA. A reservation includes a table, five chairs, and five wristbands.
No lounge chairs are allowed at the event due to space reasons, but folding chairs are acceptable. For more information, contact the MBTA at (770) 968-1623.