Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
Celebration 2012: Annual event has party feel
Celebration 2012, the annual community Independence Day celebration at the Martinsville Speedway, drew a crowd Tuesday at the track. Above, members of the audience dance, sing and cheer as country singer David Lee Murphy performs.
The three recording artists who performed at Celebration 2012 on Tuesday night wanted a party crowd, and they got it.
Thousands came to the Martinsville Speedway to celebrate the Fourth of July a day early and hear country music entertainers David Lee Murphy, Bo Bice and Darryl Worley.
Murphy, who sang many of his hit songs including “Party Crowd,” “The Road You Leave Behind” and “Loco,” stopped the music once when spectators did not stand, wave their hands and sing along with him enough to please him.
They quickly responded to his request to get rowdier.
“Y’all ready to party?” asked Bice, the former “American Idol” contestant who sang many hits, including “Sweet Home Alabama” and “You Take Yourself With You.” The latter song is about leaving a hometown you can’t stand to be in anymore.
Don’t take that as a swipe at Martinsville — each of the singers said they love the area and the hospitality people showed them Tuesday.
“You have a beautiful town,” Bice said, wittily adding, “I can’t thank y’all enough for letting my redneck butt come up here (on stage) and play.”
Murphy recalled performing in Martinsville several years ago. He said area residents always make him feel welcome.
“We love you guys,” said Worley, whose band also backed up Murphy and Bice. “I hope y’all are having fun.”
Many people in the crowd, as well as the performers, indicated they enjoy NASCAR racing.
Martinsville Speedway is “a cool race track,” Murphy said. Bice said his third album, “3,” actually was named that in honor of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., who drove the No. 3 car. Worley said he thinks his hit song “A Good Day to Run,” which he performed, should be NASCAR’s theme song.
It was the 14th Independence Day celebration held at the speedway but the first to feature three big-name musical acts.
“And the three we’ve got are phenomenal,” said speedway President Clay Campbell. He noted that “it gets tougher and tougher every year” to bring top performers to the celebration because “the price keeps going up.”
However, he said he is optimistic that next year’s celebration will be able to feature other prominent recording artists.
“They always have good talent” at the celebrations, said Billy Cox of Eden, N.C., who comes every year.
“People need a break” from their routines and, because it is a free event, it provides entertainment for people in tough economic times, Cox said.
The performers and the speedway kept the holiday in spectators’ minds.
An American flag constantly waved on a video screen above the track.
“I like to see the Stars and Stripes and camo (camouflage clothing that some spectators were wearing) in the same crowd,” Bice said.
Maj. Nelson Thomas of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Will Campbell, a rising senior at Martinsville High School and son of the speedway president, performed the national anthem on a saxophone.
Because no one needed a ticket, there was no way that speedway officials could count attendance, but they estimated it was possible to have 30,000 people on hand.
As part of the Fuel the Families Food Drive, nonperishable food items were collected from the crowd. The number of items collected was not available Tuesday night.
Brad and Carole Adams, who recently moved to Stuart from New Jersey, brought a bag of food.
Fortunately, “we are not hungry,” Brad Adams said, “and we appreciate them looking after those who are.”
“We’re just impressed with how community-minded the speedway is,” said Carole Adams.
They emphasized that they like the friendliness area residents have shown them, as well as the generosity they have seen toward others.
“It’s not that way in New Jersey,” Carole Adams admitted.
The celebration also featured food concessions, children’s rides and games and a fireworks display.
Billy Hickman of Mayodan, N.C., said he often goes to July 4 celebrations in nearby Stoneville but he comes to the speedway’s event annually.
“It’s a whole lot better” than Stoneville’s observances, Hickman said, “and the food is good, too,” especially the speedway’s famous hot dogs.
He was accompanied by his mother, Betty Hickman of Sandy Ridge, N.C.
“I know I’ll like the music,” she said before the concerts started.
But her main reason for attending the celebration was that she wanted to see inside the speedway. She said she often has passed by it while traveling but never had stopped.
More than 40 sponsors contributed a total of $100,000 toward expenses the celebration incurred, according to Clay Campbell.