Oak Island fireworks

This Fourth of July, organizers of the North Carolina Fourth of July Festival are taking advantage of the wide-open spaces at Oak Island and relocating major activities across the bridge from Southport to the beach.

Oak Island will still hold its traditional Beach Day activities on Thursday, July 1, including games, music and fireworks. Fourth of July activities will occur Saturday, July 3, and Sunday, July 4, mainly at Oak Island’s Bill Smith Park, Middleton Park, and the pier complex off Ocean Drive.

Last year, pandemic restrictions made the festival activities virtual. This year, some activities - such as the parade - have been postponed until 2022. Still, organizers have planned a full schedule of family friendly fun for residents and visitors.

Oak Island Town Council approved the plan at a special meeting on Monday. Council Member Charlie Blalock called it a great example of how the two municipalities and the festival committee could cooperate.

“The festival committee appreciates the Town of Oak Island’s willingness to expand the number of events held on Oak Island in 2021,” said Trisha Howarth, NC 4th of July Festival Co-Chair. “We are very privileged to live in a community that comes together in challenging times to foster good outcomes. I am delighted that there will be in-person events in 2021, and look forward to a return of a full schedule of events in 2022.”

“We look forward to welcoming residents and visitors,” the organizing committee stated. “For several months the committee has worked to create a schedule of events that could be held should live events resume.

“For over 220 years Southport has celebrated our nation’s independence in full fare. The history of North Carolina’s Fourth of July Festival celebration was first recorded in a newspaper in 1795. Now the event has grown to attract over 60,000 visitors each year. Through the years it’s the efforts of civic groups and citizens that has allowed the festival to evolve to encompass a wide variety of American celebration traditions.”

Beach Day

The festivities kick-off with the traditional Oak Island Beach Day on July 1. That date marks the merger of Yaupon Beach and Long Beach in 1999 to form Oak Island. A day full of games, entertainment and food hosted by the Town of Oak Island and administered by the Oak Island Recreation Department Staff begins at 8 a.m. This year’s entertainment following the annual shag contest is Gary Lowder & Smokin’ Hot. The day ends with the annual Beach Day & Oak Island Fireworks at 9 p.m.; there is plenty of room to social distance on the miles of beaches around the Oak Island Pier.

Independence Day

Events planned for Saturday and Sunday, July 3 and 4, include the Red, White and Blue Car Show, children’s entertainment, arts and crafts market, entertainment, flag retirement and flag raising ceremonies, UPWA Live Pro Wrestling, Freedom Flotilla, reading of the Declaration of Independence, and the festivities will conclude on  July 4 with a fireworks display fired from the Oak Island Pier.

“We’re glad to be able to offer more support this year and host a few of the events for this year’s July 4th celebration. We’re looking forward to gathering with friends and family, with health and safety in mind, to celebrate Independence Day,” said Oak Island Mayor Ken Thomas.

To learn more or help with trip planning, visit www.southport-oakisland.com.

(Staff Writer Lee Hinnant contributed to this report)

Festival schedule

(Tentative, subject to change)

Thursday, July 1

Beach Day at Cabana, Middleton Park, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Concert at Middleton Park: featuring Gary Lowder and Smokin’ Hot, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Shag Contest at 7 p.m.

Fireworks from the Oak Island Pier at 9 p.m.

Saturday, July 3

Red, White and Blue Car Show at Bill Smith Park from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Reading of Declaration of Independence at Moore Street Market at 10 a.m., Southport Market at 12 p.m.; other TBA

Arts and Crafts Market at Middleton Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Entertainment locations in Southport, 12 to 4 p.m., TBA

Entertainment at Pavilion at Middleton Park, 2 to 4 p.m.

Children’s entertainment, time and location TBA.

Flag retirement ceremony, Fort Johnston at 4 p.m.

Sunday, July 4

Flag raising ceremony at Garrison Lawn, TBA

Arts and Crafts Market at Middleton Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Reading of Declaration of Independence 12 p.m. at Moore Street Market; 1 p.m. at Southport Market; other TBA

Entertainment locations in Southport, 12 to 4 p.m., TBA

UPWA Pro Wrestling at Middleton Park Pavilion, TBA

Freedom Flotilla 2 to 4 p.m., from Frying Pan Restaurant to St. James Marina

Fireworks from the Oak Island Pier at 9 p.m.