The Petal Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Hattiesburg Association are partnering together to host the fourth annual Coca-Cola Star-Spangled Celebration on the River.
This year’s event will be held from 6-10 p.m. July 1 on both sides of the Leaf River – Petal River Park and Chain Park – with a fireworks show at 9 p.m. The celebration is free and open to the public.
“First off, it’s just a lot of fun,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “That’s our primary goal, of course, is to bring a lot of families, friends and neighbors together to have a great time.
“Secondly, I think in terms of economics, it’s just good for Forrest County, and for the cities of Petal and Hattiesburg, to have people driving in and spending money, and hopefully taking in other activities while they’re here. We have seen license plates from, I think, 32 different counties (in the parking lot) last time we checked.
Both sides of the river will feature will feature live music, activities, a kids zone with inflatables, and a variety of food vendors. and a hot air balloon will make an appearance later in the evening on the Petal side.
“There will be a good deal of vendors – everything from snow cones to watermelon to seafood and barbeque,” Wilson said.
The music will begin at 6 p.m. on both sides of the river. The Petal River Park side will feature Jacob Arnold & the Bird Dogs and the Hub city sound Machine. Chain Park side will host Fun K, Grits & Greens and Taste of 59 South.
Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to enjoy the festivities. Pets, glass, tents, ice chests and personal fireworks – including sparklers – are not permitted.
For the first time, alcohol will be sold on the Petal side. In the past, that endeavor was limited just to the Hattiesburg side.
“We will be selling beer on the Petal side – we’ll have both Stokes Distributing and Southern Beverage there,” Wilson said. “We will be checking IDs, and people will get a wristband once their ID has been checked.
“That will allow them to purchase beer, once we know they’re of age. I’m working on an ATM, but (visitors) should be prepared to pay cash for the beverages and such.
Parking onsite is limited, but offsite parking with shuttle service will be available.
“We will be running shuttles from various parking lots around downtown, and we’ll be listing those soon,” said Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association. “They can park at the train station and follow the bike path that goes to Chain Park, and that will be open before and after (the event).
“Parking is limited, so we encourage people to park in the designated parking lots and ride in the shuttle. We’ll have handicapped-accessible parking on the Hattiesburg side, but that too is limited. Also, Ebenezer Baptist (Church) will have paid parking.”
The Star-Spangled Celebration on the River began in 2019 after Wilson and Saffle collaborated to provide an opportunity that could be enjoyed by both the Petal and Hattiesburg communities. The event has grown steadily since its inception, with the 2019 celebration drawing approximately 11,000 guests.
“We’re very excited to be having the Star-Spangled Celebration again this year; it’s an event that we always look forward to,” Saffle said. “What a better way to celebrate America’s birthday here in Hattiesburg?”