Thursday, July 4, 2013
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH – President Natalie Robottom and the Parish Council celebrated our nation's freedom on Wednesday, July 3rd with the 8th Annual Veterans Luncheon and the 13th Annual Independence Day Celebration Along the River.
President Robottom, Parish Council Members, Local and State Elected Officials, and special guests joined over 400 veterans and their spouses at a luncheon in the Louisiana Army National Guard Readiness Center in Reserve. The annual event paid homage to deceased veterans and service members with a video tribute shown during the lunch. The video was also shown during the broadcast of the Independence Day Celebration Along the River. Artwork created by summer campers saluting our heroes for their self-sacrifice and civic engagement were used as placemats and given as keepsakes for those in attendance.
Lt. Colonel Jonathan Ballard, Commander of the 61st Troop Command and the Louisiana CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) was the keynote speaker. Ballard was the lead commander of the Louisiana National Guard in St. John the Baptist Parish during Hurricane Isaac performing rescue, security, and engineering missions. In honoring the veterans, Ballard shared his unique outlook on being a veteran, “I find myself reflecting more on my unit’s accomplishments at home during times where we were supporting emergency operations right here in Louisiana.” In keeping with the theme, “Saluting Our Heroes,” he said, “As we celebrate our nation’s independence tomorrow, remembering the members and their families are something that should be on every citizen’s mind. To all the veterans that are in attendance I salute you and our nation salutes you for all that you have sacrificed for this country.”
Later in the evening, over one thousand residents gathered on the grounds of St. Peter’s Church and the Edgard Courthouse to commemorate the holiday with food, fun and music. The event was filmed on the East and West banks of the parish and broadcast on the government access channel. "The Independence Day Celebrations are about more than good food and music," said District 1 Councilman Art Smith. "It's about the camaraderie between residents and honoring those who have fought and continue to fight to keep us free."
The St. John Parish Young Marines led the opening ceremony on the East Bank, followed by the St. Peter School Cheerleaders and a history-themed trivia game for children in attendance. Local American Idol Contestant Breanna Steer performed a heart-felt rendition of “God Bless America”, while Sarah Grosse and Rance Scott shared their musical talents later that evening. In Edgard, St. John the Baptist Parish Catholic Church held its annual fundraiser featuring jambalaya, chicken drummets, and a variety of sweets. Attendees on the West Bank were serenaded by local DJ Karen Borne. This was the first year festivities on the Westbank were televised and broadcast on the Government Channel.
Promptly at 9:00 p.m., both sides of the river were treated to a spectacular fireworks show timed to patriotic music. “My staff really pulled out all of the stops this year, beginning with a very aggressive schedule of events. A concerted effort was made to involve more veterans and patriotic activities in the program and technological advances allowed for an improved production,” said Parish President Natalie Robottom.