By Hyacinth Fiorenzo
The Martinsville Speedway has long embodied the spirit of freedom, fun and excitement for residents of the Southside. As a NASCAR track, it is best known for hosting a variety of lightning fast, adrenaline laced races. Once a year, however, the speedway opens its doors wide and invites the community to join together in a spectacular celebration of our nation’s independence – free of charge.
On July 4, the 21st annual Celebration at Martinsville Speedway will kick off. The day of festivities will include rides, food, a concert and a fireworks show. Gates along the main entrance will open at 3 p.m., with free parking available in the grass lots.
Rides and food vendors will line the display lots along the front of the track. A concert featuring Chairman of the Board and local band, The Worx, will begin on the infield at 6:30 p.m. The two bands will rock the stands all evening, leading to the area’s largest fireworks display at around 11 p.m.
As in years past, the celebration will feature a variety of traditional carnival rides. With a Ferris wheel and a handful of adrenaline rides for the adults, as well as a Giant Fun Slide and a character train for the kids, thrills will be geared to entertain the entire family.
“We’ll have something for everyone,” said Harrison Hamlet, manager of communications for the speedway. “We look forward to this event every year. It’s just as exciting as the races for local folk as well as the staff at the speedway.”
Headlining the concert is Southside favorite and international Grammy-winning recording artists Chairman of the Board. They are best known for classic R&B hits such as “Give Me Just a Little More Time,” and “(You’ve Got Me) Dangling on a String.” They are revered locally for their iconic “Carolina Girls” and the crowd favorite, “Carolina Shuffle,” which is featured at every Carolina Panthers home game.
Ken Knox, the group’s front man of 42 years and author of the Carolina Shuffle, said he is “honored and humbled to be continuing our legacy” of performing after having lost Danny Woods and General Johnson. With members Thomas Hunter and Brandon Stevens, the group tours both locally and internationally, performing classics as well as new songs off its latest album “All I Need is You Tonight.”
Knox said he is excited that bassist and musical director Jerry Dee Washington, of Axton, will be appearing locally for the first time since joining the band in 2010.
Also performing will be The Worx, a Roanoke-based band that has been a local favorite for 27 years. The Worx has received a number of local awards and is a crowd favorite at every event. Their eclectic catalog includes a variety of hits spanning 80s pop to country, rock and R&B dance favorites.
Celebration 2019 will conclude with one of the area’s largest professional fireworks displays, a showstopper slated to last about 25 minutes, officials said.
In keeping with tradition, festivities are available at no charge to the community through the donations of local sponsors. A complete list was not available. However, Hamlet said that Jeb Bassett, vice president of Bassett Furniture, has fundraised to ensure the continued success of the event.
He added the event would not be the same without the hard work and dedication of the fundraising team and the generosity of local sponsors.
“We are appreciative of Jeb Bassett and the fundraising crew and all of their hard work in 2019,” said Hamlet.
Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said the celebration is “not only a way to celebrate our great nation, but it’s also truly a community event. From the area businesses that partner with us to make it possible and keep it free, to the people that come out and enjoy the evening, it is for the people, by the people. We look forward to Celebration every year,” he added.