Banner Elk’s Independence Day celebration returns with a new name and a new date after a pandemic-forced cancellation last year.

Celebrate America’s independence and escape the heat at the same time during the Star Spangled Banner Elk Fourth of July in the cool Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

This annual event, which takes place on Saturday, July 3, in 2021, begins at 11 a.m. with an all-American parade along Banner Elk’s Main Street. The parade features cars, trucks, people and animals adorned in red, white and blue to honor America’s birthday. It’s one of the most popular Fourth of July parades in North Carolina.

The hour-long parade starts at the Lees-McRae College campus library and heads east along Main Street. It winds up in Tate-Evans Park, where the Party in the Park begins at noon. Banner Elk’s Party in the Park features old-fashioned kids’ games like three-legged races, sack races, egg tosses and watermelon eating contests. An emcee/DJ narrates the festivities and plays lively tunes. There are also food trucks, as well as vendors selling classics like funnel cakes and cotton candy.

Duck Race Banner Elk Fourth

The famous Kiwanis Duck Races begin at 12:30 p.m. with a new twist this year. Instead of buying a numbered raffle ticket for one of the rubber ducks in the races, each “ticket” will be a small keepsake duck. Every keepsake duck will be numbered to match a duck in one of the four races. The first race is at 12:30 p.m. and the three subsequent races will take place about 20 minutes after the preceding race.

The winner of each of the four races receives $200 and MUST be present to claim their prize. Likewise for second place in each race, which receives $50. If the winners are not present, the prizes go to the top two duck holders who are present.

Entry fee is $5 per duck, and folks can choose from a variety of keepsake ducks as their “ticket.” The ducks will be on sale in the park during the event and from kids walking up and down the parade route. In the days preceding the race, ducks will be available at random pop-up tents throughout town.

Fourth of July in Blue Ridge Mountains“People in the past have said they really want to take their duck home after the race and that wasn’t feasible because we had to race them again next year,” said Ann Swinkola, who organizes the races for the Banner Elk Kiwanis Club. “So we eliminated the raffle ticket concept and will give them something to take home, still keeping the entry fee at $5.”

The keepsakes come in many different colors and designs. “The little ducks are really cute. I think kids — and adults — will have a fun time picking them out,” Swinkola said. “There are lots of different colors and lots of different styles, with some wearing sunglasses or hats or carrying a surf board. All kinds of fun things.”

The festivities will wrap up at 3 p.m. and folks are encouraged to walk about Banner Elk, visiting the shops, galleries and restaurants. There is a lot to see and do in this small resort town located at 3,700 feet elevation in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Art lovers can check out Banner Elk’s Art on the Greene show on Saturday and Sunday (July 3-4) on the lawn of the Historic Banner Elk School. For more info on Art on the Greene, check out this story.

Party in the Park Fourth July Banner Elk North CarolinaTwo fireworks shows take place the next night, July 4, at Sugar Mountain Resort (click here for details) and Beech Mountain Resort (click here for details).

The Star Spangled Banner Elk Fourth is a celebration that would make Uncle Sam proud.