Blue skies and white clouds were on display Friday evening as a large crowd filled the parking lot of McConnell-Talbert Stadium in Warner Robins where locals embraced a tradition of celebrating Independence Day a few days early.
A line stretched down South Davis Drive leading up to the 5:30 p.m. gate opening.
Children belted out shouts of excitement alongside their parents searching for an open spot within sight of the stage.
Country music blared over a loudspeaker, giving a preview of the musical performances to come. Truck vendors served cold treats to beat the heat and other fare to appease the hungry masses.
Those on hand seemed to enjoy celebrating a few days early.
“It’s kind of interesting, but, hey, it means the same because it’s a celebration of togetherness,” said Elisa Reece, of Warner Robins.
Reece’s husband, Tracy, said the celebration was everything the nation’s heroes deserve and that the community did a great job of giving the military service members “all the thanks we can give them.”
Others enjoyed the family environment that the celebration provided.
Suzette Barlow, of Macon, brought her 8-year old daughter to the show to emphasize the importance of Independence Day and honoring service members.
“It’s a little early to be celebrating it, but it’s still the spirit that’s important, remembering what the Fourth of July means to us,” Barlow said.
Barlow loved the melting pot of diversity that Warner Robins provided.
“There are so many different people, people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities. Warner Robins has been so accommodating.”
Those gathered stood in reverence as the national colors were presented and the “Star-Spangled Banner” played over loudspeakers.
Toward the end, an Air Force jet flew over highlighting a setting sun before Warner Robins talent Colby Dee took the stage as an opening act for country music star Joe Nichols.
Families hung around after the show in lawn chairs, on blankets, and in the back of pickup trucks for the main-event fireworks display.