Caraway's 72nd Caraway Celebration
Caraway's Fourth of July celebration reached the 72 year mark on Wednesday with entertainment, prizes, booths, vendors, pony rides, petting zoo, archery, bingo, kick ball, and the traditional grand finale the fireworks display. Antique tractors and tools were on display giving everyone a look back in time.
A large crowd gathered early to view the parade led by Caraway Mayor Barry Riley and wife, Sherry, with participants including the Caraway Fire and Rescue teams, Caraway Police Department, Manila Fire Department, Craighead County Sheriff's Department, floats, antique cars, four-wheelers, horses and much more all trimmed in red, white and blue.
Following the parade Mayor Riley welcomed everyone and thanked all of the volunteers for their work in organizing the celebration of America's birthday.
Roger Williams, chairman for the event, thanked the local businesses and individuals for donating the prizes for the drawings held throughout the day.
Kicking off the day with a salute to the American Flag, Shirley Long sang the National Anthem. She then invited all of the veterans, police officers and firefighters to the front of the bandstand where they were presented flag/pins.
She wrote a poem, The Soldier, which she read. She presented Williams with a framed copy, with copies for the other veterans present.
By Shirley Long
Duty called, the soldier answered
To a land across the sea.
Leaving behind his family, fighting for you and me.
Selfishly giving of himself to the cause
Giving freedom to one and all.
With his faithful friends by his side,
Giving honor to the ones who have died.
America the Beautiful stands great and tall.
But without our soldier, it would surely fall.
Our faithful veterans who no longer serve
We give you the honor you so greatly deserve.
So remember soldier, as you fight brave and true,
That the land of America, is very proud of you.
She also distributed copies of original poems she had written in tribute to the firemen and police officers. Ms. Long sang several patriotic songs ending with I'm Proud to Be An American.
The gospel group, Regeneration, returned to Caraway for a concert.
This year a little Miss and Mr. Firecracker contest was held.
Among the attendants for the day was Cleffie Gipson who has worked a booth and attended the annual event for 71 of the 72 years.
For many years a Man of the Year was chosen to be recognized at the Caraway Fourth of July celebration. Ms. Gipson was the first woman to be selected and the award became the Person of the Year in 1989. The award was based on community service and she has served Caraway throughout the years. She still enjoys being part of the Caraway Fourth of July picnic.
The year I was honored, I was told I would have to ride a horse around the arena and be recognized for receiving the award, she said. A rodeo was part of the Caraway Fourth celebration for many years. I didn't think I could because I was afraid of horses. I did go to the rodeo area in the afternoon and asked if there was a very gentle horse I might ride. They brought out a horse called Gentle Ben and he was huge. I was nervous but I made it around the ball park managing a smile and a wave to the crowd. It was an honor to be chosen.
She said she is thankful the Caraway Fourth of July celebration has continued throughout the years.