Greer City Park erupted with energy and festivity Saturday as thousands of people turned out for the 8th Annual Greer Freedom Blast.
The celebration, hosted by the City of Greer, traditionally honors active military and veterans of the Armed Forces.
The Early Ray Band played two sets and Greer Idol contestants performed for entertainment.
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 39 of Greer renamed the Veterans Walk in honor of Preston Johnson, former Vice President of the D.A.V. of South Carolina, who died in January.
“I want the audience to know what Preston did for the city of Greer, said Jim Hawkins, Adjutant for Greer’s DAV. “He was someone you could rely on and just an excellent friend. “He was always there for someone and he worked at this 24/7 and now I got big shoes to fill.
“My main message is to persevere, stay focused, take care of the nation’s veterans as they get older and enhance their lifestyle making sure they get their benefits from the federal government,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and retired in 1987.
“You’re very busy over there trying to make sure you stay alive but home never leaves your mind,” Hawkins said. “I missed the small town and familiarity knowing everyone because Greer was about a third of the size it is now. The city of Greer is very patriotic and we have veterans from all eras so we want to help them hold their heads up and be proud that they served.”
All branches of the military were represented.
Military vehicles, a helicopter and displays with uniforms and other memorabilia were available for review.
Silas Tate and Joe Gagnon of Greer won the barbecue ribs eating contest, Tate representing the millennials and Gagnon the Baby Boomers.
“Back in my college days I use to break some records when it came to eating buffalo wings, so ribs were an easy transition.” Gagnon said. “So I knew if I can eat a lot of wings I can eat a lot of ribs.”
Tate devoured a rack of ribs in less than a minute. “I could probably eat some more,” Tate said “Maybe some ice cream and funnel cake.”
The festival concluded with fireworks.