Star-Spangled Celebration attracts approximately 15,000

By HASKEL BURNS,

Going into last week’s Coca-Cola Star-Spangled Celebration on the River, officials expected this year’s event to easily top last year’s turnout of 10,000 attendees.

Turns out they were right on point, with an estimated 15,000 people showing up – 10,000 at Chain Park and approximately 5,000 at Petal River Park – to enjoy a family-friendly night of food, fun, music and fireworks. The second annual event was the result of a partnership between the Downtown Hattiesburg Association and the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It was just beautiful,” said Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association. “There were so many more people there this year, and everything went smoothly.

“The crowd was friendly and congenial, and it was so reflective of Hattiesburg. It was hot, but we got a nice breeze before the show started, and the temperature dropped a little. It was a beautiful summer night, and we couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Participants on both sides of the river were treated to live music, kids’ zones and other activities. Vendors included Coca-Cola, Southern Stars Facepaint, Chik-fil-A, The First – A National Banking Association, Domino’s and Kona Ice, among others.

Brotha Josh & The Quickness, Royal Horses and Soul Session entertained Chain Park attendees, while Petal River Park featured Southern Jammerz, Charles “CC” Carter and Unfazed.

As an added treat, the Petal side even offered a balloon glow with a seven-story tall hot air balloon.

“It was a full house, and it went off beautifully,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “The balloon glow was really beautiful – everybody enjoyed seeing it, and it really added to the whole event.”

Because of the overwhelming success of the first two events, there’s no doubt the Star-Spangled Celebration will be continued every year from here on out.

“People have been talking about this like this has been an annual event for years, when in fact this is only the second year,” Wilson said. “So this is the regular event here in Petal now.

“Everything went off much better than last year – there’s a few things we’re going to improve on for next year, but all in all the event went very smooth. It was just completely family-friendly and wholesome, and the community came together and enjoyed it.”

The event was made possible by Coca-Cola of Hattiesburg, The First - A National Banking Association, City of Petal, City of Hattiesburg, Downtown Hattiesburg Association, Petal Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, in cooperation with VisitHATTIESBURG.