I’m increasingly disappointed with Southports Fourth of July festival as a local and especially as a business owner. This is our States festival and understandably, a big deal. However it was, not long ago something very different.
Historically, a small smattering of Victorians in white eyelet gathered upon the garrison lawn of ft Johnston for homemade strawberry ice cream and pound cake, the salubrious breezes, welcomed relief from the scourge of malarial fever, various period maladies and not to mention, the layers of camisoles, pantalettes and woolen knickers popular in that time. In its infancy, and paralleled in the youth of the nation itself, the gathering was quaint, subdued and symbolic; a humble celebration spent amongst families nestled between two great pillars of freedom. The protection of our fort and the protection of our river, both standing unfettered against the tides of wars through the ages.
Of course, its popularity grew into a fashionable event for families. It developed into a lovely hometown event complete with picket fences adorned with Stars and Stripes, white washed banisters with patriotic buntings. Darling parades with endearingly off-key student marching bands and silly old men in their club hats. Local craftsmen selling their little homespun treasures in the park and Charlie on his barge with breathtaking fireworks. Miss Y would sell beef egg rolls and yell at boys if they ate too much. Grandfathers would cut chilled watermelons and the little children would clammer to the waterfront for games and fishing, the occasional poagie would be a great treasure, and the proud little fisherman would be followed home by every feral cat in town. The streets would be closed and children could freely ride bikes without fear and fun loving adults could share mimosas on their porches.
Somehow, it began to change. Local businesses would be forced to close their doors and the local crafts replaced with cheap Chinese crap sold at exorbitant rates to eager tourists. Restaurants barred their doors, money spent on the Iranian corn dog stand. Wedding singers belting in out on the waterfront replacing local talent. Sweaty restless youth fighting in the streets, shooting, cussing. Gangsters on crotch rockets drag racing on side roads. Drunk men pawing and cheaply dressed women in white cut offs, so short, one can tell they need a good waxing. Junkies stumbling around Whittlers Bench and hot screaming babies in dirty diapers.
I have not worked in two days. Someone who lives here, pays taxes, spends money in local establishments and gives back to the community. I’ve made nothing. Some of these ‘businesses’ aren’t even from here: they’re from say, Charlotte. They feed off our area, take what they want and leave, like rats on a ship. They aren’t even worthy to be called vultures; vultures serve a biological purpose. These people use us, like a cheap prostitute, wipe their soiled bits and leave without so much as a coin on the nightstand. Is this really the festival we celebrate? Our sweet parade now peppered with more advertisement and endorsements. It’s a wonder Walmart isn’t sponsoring it. Rude clowns in the park who chastise children who ask politely for a face paint. New York couple who charged $38 for souvenir mugs, then argue over a $6 refill after taking my picture in uniform to promote their tawdry, sub par root beer. Which was undeniably flat.
Last year I was so afraid walking home from the fireworks on account of the drunk drivers and drag racers my child would be hit. Turns out a child was hit…and today, those cars are still racing on my street. I’ve already spotted multiple people drinking while driving. It’s not even 5 o’clock anywhere!
There’s many aspects of our towns festival that are enjoyable and wonderful for families, but it’s turned very quickly into a trash fest. Mad Max on meth. A fourth festival sold to the highest bidder and throngs of hungry feeding on the carcass that was an American town. To me, that’s not a celebration. Amongst the rancid street food, loud music, drunks in beach chairs, realtors convincing you to ‘be a real local’, cars racing and revving, and heroin addled millennials do not forget the meaning of the day, or at least have a bit of pound cake.

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