Staunton tradition returns: 4th of July celebration is live this weekend

Staunton will celebrate Happy Birthday America live this weekend for the first time since 2019.

STAUNTON — In 1970, a country music group began holding concerts in Staunton to celebrate the 4th of July.

The Statler Brothers continued the tradition for 25 years, with the celebration drawing as many as 100,000 to the Queen City to see country music legends like Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Reba McIntyre, Charley Pride, Neal McCoy and Conway Twitty also perform.

Celebrations continued to be held at the bandstand at Gypsy Hill Park every July until 2017 when two sons of members of the Statler Brothers picked up the tradition.

“To kind of breath the kind of life [into the celebration] that we and our generation enjoyed with it,” said Langdon Reid, the son of Don Reid. He and cousin Wil Reid, the son of Harold Reid, are Wilson Fairchild. Their fathers were original members of the Statler Brothers. Wilson Fairchild has traveled the United States sharing their love of music.

In 2020 and 2021, the celebration was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to have a celebration of some sort and keep it going,” Reid said.

This weekend, Happy Birthday America returns live to Gypsy Hill Park. A beauty pageant is scheduled for Saturday. On Sunday, July 3, at 4 p.m. vendors, games and children’s rides will be set up by the John Moxie baseball field. The mainstage will be on the baseball field with a vesper service at 6:30 p.m. and performances by local talent, including the Heaven’s Mountain Band, which performed Tuesday at Praise in the Park.

“The big day is on the 4th,” Reid said. The Happy Birthday America parade begins at 10 a.m. with what Reid said is “one of the bigger parade entries that we’ve had.” Live music will be performed on the mainstage and vendors available starting at 2 p.m. “Wilson Fairchild, we take the stage at 7:30.” At 8:30 p.m., Grammy-winner and queen of bluegrass and country music Rhonda Vincent and the Rage will take the stage.

Monday’s celebration will close out with a salute to veterans and fireworks about 10 p.m.

“The best part about this whole thing is it’s free,” Reid said of the celebration. Except for the cost of food and vendors, tickets are not necessary for attendance or to see the performances.

Reid said that the public is encouraged to bring lawn chairs and enjoy each day’s events.

“We’ve been singing music — since we were in high school,” Reid said of Wilson Fairchild.

He said his father, Don, is supportive of the next generation carrying on the tradition.

“It’s a good feeling. Something that he was a part of [lives on],” Reid said. The celebration brought the community together for 25 years and brought people from out of state to Staunton to celebrate the 4th of July. “It was just amazing.”

Langdon and Wil were children when the celebration began in Staunton and they attended with their families.

“It was like Christmas for us,” Langdon Reid said.

As Wilson Fairchild, Reid said the cousins wanted to return the tradition to Staunton and bring back that small town feeling of celebration. He said the group would like to thank the community, sponsors and local businesses for their support every year.

“It’s a way of giving back to the community,” Reid said of continuing the tradition, as well as honoring the memories the Statler Brothers made with the celebration for a community that enjoys it every year. “It’s just a part of who we are, and really what Staunton is all about.”

For more information about this weekend’s celebration, go to https://www.happybirthdayamerica.org/schedule.


Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.