0

Conyers braces for heavy July 4th crowds

CONYERS - Organizers of the annual Fabulous 4th Festival are bracing for a significant increase in visitors to the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers since Fourth of July festivities in Covington were canceled this year.

Jennifer Edwards, spokeswoman for the city of Conyers, said Monday that event planners at the Horse Park met last week to wrap up final details from the annual Cherry Blossom Festival held in March and to look forward to the Fabulous 4th Festival in July.

"Someone noted that the Covington fireworks were not taking place, and we needed to be prepared to handle additional people," Edwards said. "We are limited in space, but we will accommodate as many as we can, adhering to safety first, of course."

Edwards said the Fabulous 4th at the Horse Park generally draws about 20,000 visitors each year - approximately the same number that usually attends the Fourth of July celebration held at The Church at Covington.

The event in Covington has been hosted jointly between the church, located on Ga. Highway 142 in Oxford, the city of Covington and Newton County. County commissioners agreed by a vote of 3-2 in March that they would not pay the county's usual portion of $3,790 toward the total cost of $7,580, citing a shortage of funds.

As a result, the Covington City Council pulled its funding since the city's participation was contingent upon the county's involvement.

Pastor David Payne remained hopeful that he could raise additional funds for the fireworks, but needed cooperation from the county and city for public safety services, such as police, fire protection and EMTs.

By the end of April, without a commitment from the city or county to provide public safety services and scant time remaining to plan the event, Payne informed a city official the celebration was canceled.

The Fabulous 4th Festival in Conyers is sponsored by 104.7 The Fish. The day includes live performances by local bands, children's activities, arts, crafts and car shows. A patriotic program is scheduled with Conyers resident Brig. Gen. Maria Britt providing the keynote address.

The gates will open at 5 p.m. and the fireworks show is expected to begin about

9:45 p.m. Edwards said most people arrive between 7 and 7:30 p.m.

"We have a very healthy crowd in a short time period," she said, "and we hope to have some folks from Covington who may not have joined us before."

Edwards said no specific plans have been put in place regarding extra public safety personnel, but it's still early in the planning process.

Newton Citizen Staff Reporter Crystal Tatum contributed to this article.

Aimee Jones can be reached at aimee.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.