07/01/07 — Pikevile celebrates Independence Day on Saturday

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Pikevile celebrates Independence Day on Saturday

By Lee Williams
Published in News on July 1, 2007 2:00 AM

PIKEVILLE -- Dennis Lewis never imagined he would one day wow local residents with a fireworks display to mark the end of the town's annual Independence Day Festival.

But when opportunity knocked, the 46-year-old truck driver and son of a Pikeville farmer, promptly answered the call.

Lewis, a longtime fireworks technician, was one of dozens who gathered Saturday at Pikeville Town Park for the 10th annual Independence Day Festival. The festival was hosted by the Pikeville Lions Club.

Proceeds for the event benefited 7-month-old Ryan Hooks who was born with severe birth defects.

About 10 years ago, Lewis decided to kick off the festive event, and he wanted it to end with a bang. So, he decided to inquire about hiring a pyrotechnics expert to put on a fireworks display.

But Lewis wasn't too thrilled with his findings.

"When I started the celebration, I wanted to use fireworks, and it cost money, and I didn't have any," he said. "So, I figured I better learn how."

So, Lewis decided to go it alone.

That year, Lewis put on his first fireworks display, and he's been doing it ever since.

Lewis said Fourth of July is supposed to be festive.

"The Fourth of July is a day that needs to be celebrated," he said. "Over the span of our history, fireworks have been used, and I wanted to keep that tradition."

Lewis newfound capabilities have translated into big savings for the town and other organizations including the Goldsboro Jaycees and Relay For Life fundraising committee.

"It's hard for a small town to come up with a budget for fireworks," he said. "I know some companies that won't even talk to you for less than $10,000. That's a lot for a small town."

The mood at the event was festive.

The sounds of "Sweet Home Alabama" serenaded spectators who milled around from booth to booth.

Overcast skies and heavy rain clouds loomed above, but it wasn't enough to damper the spirits of those who attended the event.

On one end of the park, children bounced happily on the moonwalk, while some adults tried their hand at a good old-fashioned game of horseshoes. At the other end of the park, children lined up to have their faces painted, while others went for a hay ride.

There was a car show and live entertainment from Jerry Schlenker of Pikeville, a former contestant from Wayne's Most Talented singing competition. The Shriners showed off their mini-rigs and "Chicken Man" wowed the crowd with his well-trained chickens who performed little tricks. Each of the birds is named after a biblical figure.

Earlier in the day, Trey Overby, 11, was crowned Little Mr. Independence. Baylie Kerley, 7, was crowned Little Miss Independence.

Mavis Crawford, owner of Crawford Furniture Co., was selected as Mrs. Pikeville for her work in building a new library in Pikeville, while Johnny Howell of Howell Insurance Co. was named Mr. Pikeville.

Honored guests, Pikeville Mayor Herb Sieger, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, Sen. John Kerr, Rep. Louis Pate and Wayne County Commissioner Andy Anderson also attended the event.

Sieger, who also serves as secretary for the Pikeville Lions Club, said he was pleased with the turnout.

The festivities were cut short due to a heavy downpour toward the end of the event, but he still called the gathering a success.

Edith McClenny, organizer and president of the Pikeville Lion Club, said she also was thrilled with the turnout.

She said she believes the rain clouds might have kept some of the crowd away, which could impact the fundraising effort for baby Ryan.

She said residents still can donate to the cause. Donations may be sent to Pikeville Lions Club, P.O. Box 338, Pikeville, N.C. 27863. Mrs. McClenny said the baby's parents, Mike and Cathie Hooks, have been working to get Ryan medical attention to correct his birth defects and the money will help pay his medical bills.