The Kenan Stadium Fourth of July Celebration was the Best Ever

It is well known that our community is filled with opinionated people and I am one of them.  But, sometimes we need to take time to express our opinion about something that we really liked.  So, in that spirit, let me say, that in my opinion, the town’s Fourth of July at Kenan Stadium was the very best ever.

All of the people involved in the planning, execution, supervision, and funding of the evening deserve a big thanks for making it so special.

Parks and Recreation Manager Wes Tilghman and his staff, all of the UNC personnel involved, the fire department, the public safety officers, everyone who worked so hard to celebrate America’s birthday in such a fine fashion, should be praised.

And we can’t forget the outstanding musical group, the brave souls who entered the watermelon eating contest, the Honor Guard, the group that sang the national anthem, and all of the sponsors who helped with the financial support.  And Grace Church with the glowsticks.

One man who also deserves our thanks is M.C. Ron Stutts as he makes any program more special than it might have been otherwise.

Yes.  We all have opinions.

I hope that the thousands of people who came to Kenan for the fourth agree.  We had one heck of a birthday celebration with the kind of old-fashioned fireworks that made us all sit up and take notice.

Let’s do it again next year.


— Fred Black

Orange County Officials Provide Safety Tips for Holiday Weekend

With July 4th on Monday many are planning to celebrate with cookouts and – possibly – their own firework shows, but Orange County Fire Marshal Jason Shepherd is urging people to be safe.

Shepherd says that July 4th weekend has more reported fires than any other time of the year.

There are a lot of reasons for that, Shepherd says, people are outside grilling, setting off fireworks. It creates more of an opportunity for things to happen around this particular time of year.

Cooking may not be at the top of most people’s minds when they think about fire prevention for July 4th weekend, but Shepherd lists cooking in his top two activities where residents need to take the necessary steps for safety.

Safety tips include: always grill outside, keep the grill at least 10 feet from the house, keep children and pets three feet away at all times, do not have any grease or fat built up on the grill, do not leave it unattended and leave your gas grill lid open when you are trying to light it.

Setting off fireworks is another activity many participate in over July 4th weekend and Shepherd’s number one recommendation for fire safety is going to one of the town-sanctioned shows.

Shepherd reminds Orange County residents that any fireworks brought in from another state that fly off the ground and through the air are illegal.

For the fireworks that are legal, like sparklers, Shepherd emphasizes that they burn at 1,200 degrees and account for 16 percent of all firework injuries.

He wants people to keep them out of reach of children and plant them in the ground instead, but not in a dry area.

Sheriff Charles Blackwood says law enforcement is concerned with alcohol and gun safety during the holiday weekend. He urges Orange County residents not to drink and drive, especially since it is a long weekend where people are celebrating for four days.

“First and foremost, alcohol and fireworks do not mix and neither does alcohol and driving. So we are stepping up patrols and there will be an increased number of law enforcement officers across the state,” Blackwood says.

Blackwood warns residents from shooting their guns into the air. Firing a round in the air is dangerous, he says. That round has to come down somewhere, with some type of velocity and it can cause some damage.

In light of his warnings about residents setting off fireworks and drinking, Blackwood understands it is a celebratory weekend and that residents will be setting off fireworks. He hopes residents will maintain a level of responsibility with their actions this weekend.

Listen below to the full interview with Blackwood:

Local Fourth of July Celebrations

It’s 4th of July weekend and it’s time to celebrate our country’s independence. If you are looking to celebrate 4th of July in a fun way the Towns of Carrboro, Hillsborough, Caldwell and Chapel Hill are putting on events for you to enjoy.

You can start your celebration early with the Town of Carrboro’s July 4th celebration at the Carrboro Town Hall. The event will start at 9:30 a.m at Weaver Street Market Lawn with music by Tim Stambaugh and end at 4:00 p.m.

The event will include a parade going from Weaver Street Market to Town Hall, starting at 10:50 a.m. Kids will have access to the fun zone and the fun zone stage.

In the event of inclement weather, a message will be posted here under the news flash section and on the Carrboro Recreation & Parks Department’s Weather Information Line at 919-918-7373.

The Third Annual Community Reading of Frederick Douglass’ essay “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” will be held rain or shine at the Carrboro Century Center from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Residents of Caldwell can celebrate their Independence Day starting at ten o’clock in the morning as the town marches from Caldwell Fire House to the NC 57 and Guest Road Intersection. The parade will start moving at 10:50 a.m.

If you are a resident of Hillsborugh celebrate the Third Annual Picnic in the Park at the River Park on East Margret Lane from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Festivities begin with a community reading of the Declaration of independence, followed by live music from several local bands. Families can enjoy lunch from one of many food trucks.

There will also be a ton of fun activities for kids, according to the town, including colonial-style games and crafts with the Daughters of the American Revolution.

And the Old Fashioned 4th of July is back with the celebration from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. on the lawn at The Horace Williams House. There will be free Ice Cream, flags, lemonade and patriotic music performed by the village band. Be sure to bring lawn chairs, blankets, family and friends.

Once you’re done with your town’s daily activities head over to UNC’s Kenan Memorial Stadium for the celebration of 4th of July this Monday. The gates open at 7:00 p.m. and fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m.

The event starts off with a watermelon eating contest hosted by DSI comedy.

If watermelons and comedy isn’t really your thing, enjoy The Soul Psychedelique Orchestra. The TSP has a wide variety of music ranging from Rock to Reggae.

Stadium Gates five, six and Blue Zone North will be open for entry at 7:00 p.m..

Amanda Fletcher and Jim Orr with the Town of Chapel Hill spoke with Ron Stutts about the fireworks celebration at Kenan Stadium:

Kenan Stadium Fireworks Boasts Biggest Audience Yet

Following the celebrations of July 4th in Orange County, the events of the day are still fresh in people’s minds, from the parades to the numerous outdoor activities. To close out the night, of course, was the nationally-recognized fireworks display at Kenan Stadium.

Production Manager for the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department, Wes Tilghman, says that this Fourth of July produced the biggest audience the event has ever had.

“We just enjoyed a great evening celebrating with our community,” says Tilghman. “It was a record turn-out with a wonderful show. We estimate that crowd to be around 35 to 38 thousand; that’s actually estimated based on the number of seats we make available at the stadium each year.”

He also says that the show ran without any problems, thanks to the help of the local professionals.

“Everything went very smoothly,” says Tilghman. “All the folks at Parks and Recreation, who helped coordinate the event worked very closely with the UNC officials and our Chapel Hill Fire Department to make a great event.”

In graditiude, Tilghman says he offers his thanks to everyone that made the July 4th celebration this year such a success.

“Just a big thank you to all of those that were involved, especially those sponsors that support the event each year,” says Tilghman.

Tilghman also expressed his gratitude and praise for one local celebrity in particular for keeping the show going, and making this Independence Day something to remember.

“Mr. Ron Stutts is just an amazing Master of Ceremonies each year,” says Tilghman. “He makes that stage sing, and we really appreciate everyone’s support and contributions.”

Lavelle Talks Local Advocacy (And The Fourth Of July)

With the NC General Assembly in session and Independence Day around the corner, Carrboro mayor Lydia Lavelle joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the air Wednesday to talk about advocacy efforts and event planning.

Town clerk Cathy Wilson was in Raleigh Wednesday, meeting with elected officials on state-level issues with local effects in Carrboro – and Tuesday was “Equality Lobby Day” at the NCGA, as representatives from Equality NC met with elected representatives to promote LGBT issues at the state level. Lavelle met with those advocates later in the day, she says, to discuss how to promote those same issues in individual municipalities.

On an unrelated (or perhaps semi-related) note, Lavelle also mentioned Wednesday that plans were in the works for a Fourth of July event at Carrboro’s Town Hall – featuring a public reading of Frederick Douglass’s famous 1852 Independence Day oration, “The Meaning of July Fourth to the Negro” (also known as “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”).

Listen to Lavelle’s conversation with Aaron Keck below.

Re-Lighting the Night Sky

Almost exactly one year ago I wrote how I lauded the decision to cancel Chapel Hill’s annual fireworks display.  While the economy is only inching its way back and can not yet be called healthy and while town leaders are certainly still making tough choices, this year I write that it was wonderful to have fireworks burst again over Kenan Stadium.

Why the change of heart?  Because this year, in an acknowledgement that we’re all in this life and this town and this country together, lots of different people found a way to share the burden.  Donations at the stadium contributed about $8,000 toward the approximate $42,000.  That 8-thousand came from suggested donations of $-$5 so that means an awful lot of people dug into their pocket.
More help came from some local businesses at the prodding of a really wonderful guy (full disclosure: I married him!):  Barry Leffler, CEO of WCHL and worked with the town to raise money from the following businesses: 

Money isn’t the only way people helped bring back a terrific celebration: Police and fire departments for both Chapel Hill and Carrboro report no incidents that evening suggesting that whether people gave money and/or good behavior, they contributed to a wonderful birthday party for the nation. 
Could this idea of working together to find solutions seep out of our terrific town and creep, if not to Washington, then maybe to Raleigh?  I don’t really think so but maybe next year I’ll once again be writing to tell you that things have changed since last year!
Did you enjoy the fireworks?  Are there other opportunities for joint solutions you’d like to suggest?  Write to me at or leave a comment below.

Sunrise Sunset

Happy (almost) Fourth of July everyone! I hope that many of you will be out having fun with your friends and family, attending Fourth of July events this weekend. You can see a local listing of events on the calendar.

If you are lucky, you might get to see and photograph a beautiful sunset this holiday weekend. On July 4th, 2011 the sun is setting at 8:36 p.m. That means that from about 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. is the “golden hour,” as photographers call it. This is a time where everything looks good! Sunrise has a golden hour, too, but few of us are awake and coherent enough at that hour to manage a good photo. So let me talk about sunset.
kpo photo
This image was taken at the aptly named Sunset Beach, North Carolina. I photographed the sunset without a tripod at these settings:

Camera: Canon 30D
ISO: 1000
Shutter Speed: 1/640
Aperture: 7.1
Lens: 200 mm
You really have to set the camera exposure manually as most cameras set on automatic take an average of all the light in this scene resulting in an overexposed sky. I just happened to record a miraculous moment in which two birds made their way inland for the evening. Perfect!

There will only be a 13% waxing moon on the 4th, but let me show you the last full moon, also taken from the Sunset Beach/ Ocean Isle area. There was a total eclipse that lasted for more than 100 minutes in parts of Asia, Europe and Africa- making it the longest since 2000 and one of the longest on record, but North America was not able to see it at all, at least they say. But I think it looked pretty darn cool.
kpo photo
The camera was on a tripod at these settings:

Camera: Canon 7D
ISO: 320
Shutter Speed: 0.6 seconds
Aperture: 2.8
Lens: 17-55 mm, at a focal length of 55mm

And with that I sincerely wish you all a safe and peaceful Independence Day! Good luck getting images of fireworks. The trick is to manually set the camera to a slow shutter speed on a tripod and then just hope for the best. It is kind of hit and miss but can yield some great results.

Please do not hesitate to ask if you have photography questions. I am also very open to suggestions for photo stories. If you know of a person or event you think deserves to be documented, please write to me at