Paying homage to valiant American soldiers on one city block and competing in a cutthroat barbecue grill-off on another, Augustans on Saturday covered all bases in their pre-Fourth of July celebrations downtown.
Grilling in the pork, chicken, beef, and "anything goes" categories, the self-proclaimed chefs at Riverwalk Augusta said there was more as stake than the second and third place plaques and the $50 first place prize.
"This is for bragging rights," said Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Ronnie Few, who said he was an unofficial taster for the fire team's Sweet & Tangy, Hot & Spicy and Mild & Mello sauce-covered meats. "This is serious business."
"I cooked that sauce on low for two days," said fire department spokeswoman and Flaming Grillers team member Katrice Bryant about the mixture that helped her team secure first place in the chicken category.
There were five entrants for the inaugural Great Grill Off competition, said Riverwalk coordinator Rommie Thompson. And coordinators said they hope the grill-off -- a cerebral palsy fund-raising event -- grows more popular.
Singing groups and arts and crafts attractions were also a part of festivities that drew about 6,000 by midday Saturday, coordinators said.
In another part of downtown, a flag presentation ceremony in front of the Municipal Building drew about 50 people who came to honor the country on its 223rd birthday -- and to help protect history.
"We still need this, because this is what America is all about," said Audrey O'Keefe, incoming president of La Femmes CABAN 719, a local post of an honorary American Legion group. "If we don't do this, what will our children have of their history so they can show pride in their country?"
Flags were presented to honor those who served in the Civil, Revolutionary, Spanish-American, Korean and Vietnam wars and World Wars I and II.
Retired veterans and their family members stressed the importance of today's youth not forgetting how others fought and died for the freedom they now enjoy.
"Every generation of American must ensure that freedom and liberty is open to the next generation and not diminished by government and group membership," said retired Lt. General Robert E. Gray, former commander of Fort Gordon. "It's a declaration that is timeless."
Here is a list of Fourth of July happenings today:
The arts and crafts show at Riverwalk Augusta's Eighth Street plaza resumes from noon to sundown. Live entertainment is scheduled from 4 to 8:30 p.m. on a stage at Eighth and Reynolds streets. On the other stage, at the Eighth Street Plaza fountain, entertainment is scheduled from noon to 9:45 p.m. Tommy Hangover performs at 5:30 p.m. at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater. Augusta Mayor Bob Young and other dignitaries will be introduced from 7:30 to 8 p.m. at the amphitheater, followed by patriotic music performed by the Signal Corps Band. The evening concludes with the customary firing of cannons during the Signal Corps Band's rendition of the 1812 Overture, a prelude to the fireworks at about 9:30 p.m. over the Savannah River.
If it rains, fireworks will be set off at nightfall Monday. Before the fireworks, St. Paul's Episcopal Church will play host to A Star-Spangled Fourth at 8 p.m. at the church, 605 Reynolds St. Organist Keith Shafer and the Independence Day Orchestra and Instrumentalists will perform American classics, including You're a Grand Old Flag, America the Beautiful and Yankee Doodle Dandy.
Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students and $5 for children. For credit-card orders and more information, call 722-6855.
After the concert, patrons can watch the riverwalk fireworks from the church grounds. Another downtown church, First Presbyterian, 642 Telfair St., is offering a concert of patriotic marches from 7:45 p.m. to sundown in front of the church. The Independence Day Presbyterian Patriot Brass Band, dressed in get-ups that feature straw hats, suspenders and red-white-and-blue bow ties, will perform selections such as Stars and Stripes Forever and The Liberty Bell March. Call 725-2081. Patriots Park's Fourth of July celebration starts at 6 p.m. with pony rides, music and fireworks. Opening ceremonies are at 6 p.m., followed by live gospel music performances by the Southern Gospel Association. Fireworks begin at 10 p.m. Food and drinks will be available, but alcohol is prohibited. Call 860-2952.
The park is off Columbia Road in Columbia County. Perhaps you are interested in a historical perspective on the holiday. Meadow Garden, the historic home of Declaration of Independence signer George Walton, will be open today. The home, which is furnished with furniture from the late 1700s and early 1800s, will be open for guided tours from 1 to 5 p.m.
Meadow Garden is at 1320 Independence Drive, off 13th Street between Telfair Street and Walton Way. For more information, call 724-4174. Offering respite from the heat, the Augusta-Richmond County Museum, 560 Reynolds St., will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults and seniors, and $1 for children. Call 722-8454.
On the riverwalk
Here are Fourth of July events planned for today on Riverwalk Augusta:
Eighth Street Plaza:
Noon until dark: Arts and crafts show
Stage I (Reynoldsand Eighth streets):
4-4:45 p.m.: Rhythm and Class Cloggers
5-5:15 p.m.: Tae Kwon Do Plus demonstrations
6-6:45 p.m.: Footloose and Fancy Free Cloggers
7-8 p.m.: Mirage Middle Eastern Dancers and guests
8:15-8:30 p.m.: Tae Kwon Do Plus demonstrations
Stage II (fountain area)
Noon to 2 p.m.: Carpenter's Bride
2:30-4 p.m.: Sideshow
4:30-6:30 p.m.: The Vellotones
7-8 p.m.: Flo Carter Band
8:15-9:45 p.m.: Sophisticated Swing
5:30-7:15 p.m.: Tommy Hangover
7:30-8 p.m.: Introduction of Mayor Bob Young and dignitaries
8-9 p.m.: U.S. Army Signal Corps Band
9:30 p.m.: Fireworks