As the blissful summer breeze blows amid an afternoon in June, classic cars roll by, shiny and ready for show. Overhead, planes fly about, showcasing their skills, while you eat a stack of pancakes. It must be time to Celebrate Charlotte.
“We think it’s important to celebrate our community,” said Ann Garvey, the executive director of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, who is predominately responsible for putting on the festival this year.
Celebrate Charlotte began 10 years ago as a one-day event intended to bring together the community. In 2004, it expanded to become a weekend celebration of the city, and it now begins the Thursday before and ends the Sunday of Father’s Day. Garvey said that the inclusion of Father’s Day started four years ago. With the change came more music, more shopping and more activities for the community to take part in.
The festival is hosted by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, who finds sponsors like Meijer, Northwest Energy and Spartan Motors to offset some of the cost of the festival’s activities, workers and advertising.
“Northwest Energy paid for the gas for the airplanes last year, and Spartan Motors helped with the [hot air] balloons,” said Garvey. “Any money that [Commerce] has is funneled into the car show or paying for the music,” she said. Musicians in Celebrate Charlotte include local bands and/or DJs, said Garvey.
Residents, local businesses and the city government also donate to the cause (individual donors giving large contributions have the opportunity to ride in a hot air balloon at the airport). Garvey said that most of the money that comes from this sector is through the DDA tax that downtown area businesses pay.
This year, the festival will begin Thursday, June 12 with a big auto show down Cochran Avenue. “They close off the street and it’s just a real nice atmosphere,” said Bill Mitchell, a resident of Charlotte. Mitchell and his wife said they liked the auto show the best because of their interest in vintage cars.
On Friday, there is a community golf outing as well as sidewalk sales, shopping and music to enjoy. At night, the hot air balloons pass overhead in the downtown area. Garvey said the balloons take off at the Fitch H. Beach airport, also where dads can enjoy a stack of pancakes and the Father’s Day Fly-In on their Father’s Day. During the daytime, the community is invited to come to the airport and see as well as learn about the hot air balloons.
The festival wraps up on Sunday with the Father’s Day Fly-In, sponsored by the Lion’s Club of Charlotte. The fly-in was a tradition before Celebrate Charlotte, said Garvey. “[The Lion’s Club] had been doing it for a number of years, and as of recent we decided to add it to the festival,” she said. The committee for the Celebrate Charlotte festival includes a former pilot, Garvey said, who helps to find others in the field to use in the festival. Commerce pays for a couple of nights in a hotel for several professional pilots to stay and fly the planes at the Father’s Day Fly-In. Sponsors like Northwest Energy also help to put the pilots up for a couple of nights, and help to pay for the gas used in the planes.
Mitchell said that Celebrate Charlotte is hardly a hassle for the community, and he enjoys running into people he knows at the festival. “Anything that can bring the people in this community together [is good],” he said.
Garvey said that aside from bringing together the community, Celebrate Charlotte gives bragging rights to the city in the face of other communities. “We want people to know that we’re a great place to do business and a great place to live,” said Garvey.