Thousands flock to 25th Liberty Day

— The Shelby County High School Band made its way down Columbiana’s Main Street in more of a sprint than a march on Saturday.

A brief but menacing thunderstorm meant a faster than usual Liberty Day parade. About halfway through, thunder and rain brought the parade to an early end as paradegoers dashed for cover.

Nonetheless, neither stifling temperatures nor the threat of afternoon storms kept away visitors to Columbiana’s 25th Liberty Day event. Thousands made their way to Shelby County’s county seat Saturday for its annual celebration.

Flushed-face babies wilted in the arms of sweaty yet determined grandparents and parents, who meandered along the city’s vendor-lined Main Street. Arts and crafts were plentiful, as were traditional festival foods like lemonade, blooming onions and funnel cakes — even alligator on a stick.

Several bands performed throughout the day on the Liberty Day main stage, located in front of the old Shelby County Courthouse, which serves as the Shelby County Historical Society Museum and Archives.

“It’s a great 25th Liberty Day celebration,” said Allan Lowe, Columbiana’s mayor. “People seem to really be enjoying it.”

Lowe said the number of vendors at this year’s event had increased, as had attendance.

“I’ve heard lots of wonderful compliments about the quality of the entertainment, too,” he said. “We want to thank everybody that took the time out of their weekend to help us celebrate. We hope they had fun, but more than that, we hope they realize we do this to celebrate our country and to celebrate the people who gave us our freedom.”

Columbiana’s Liberty Day kicked off Friday evening with the dedication of a historical marker commemorating the city’s part in this summer’s Alabama Small Towns and Downtowns celebration.

Before that, hundreds made their way through the Shelby County Arts Council Gallery to be greeted by Columbiana’s own Bonnie Atchison at her One-Woman Show. Atchison’s son, Michael Mason, sang the National Anthem during the Liberty Day opening ceremonies.

Events were set to continue on Saturday night with music and fireworks at the Shelby County High School Stadium.