1970 - 1994: The Statler Brothers initiated this exciting event when they were walking through Staunton's Gypsy Hill Park on Independence Day 1969 and there was nothing whatsoever going on. The only observance related to July 4th that year was a request from City officials for a "Tolling of the Bells" at 2 PM when all citizens were asked to ring a bell in order to celebrate the founding of our nation. Brothers Harold and Don Reid, along with fellow band members Phil Balsley and Lew Dewitt, decided to do something about it and, in 1970, Happy Birthday USA was celebrated for the first time. Over the ext 25 years, it grew to become a spectacular event attracting up to 100,000 people to Staunton to celebrate Independence Day. The final "Happy Birthday USA" was in 1994.
1995 - 2017: A core group of volunteer citizens took over management of the event in 1994 and worked diligently to continue the annual 4th of July celebration in Staunton. The success and excitement surrounding the event showed the community was definitely ready to embrace the work that had been accomplished in previous decades, plus create new traditions and share with a new generation. Many thank yous and high fives are in order to the ABC Committee for their time and attention for 20+ years in order to continue the family-oriented two-day event celebrating the Independence Day holiday.
2018 to present : Following the incredibly successful 2017 event, the ABC committee decided to dissolve their organization whereupon a new committee, led by Wil and Langdon Reid (sons of Statler Brothers Harold and Don Reid), was formed to resume with the planning of a future celebrations. The goal is to celebrate America’s birthday in the same family-oriented and wholesome tradition of food, fun, music and fireworks that Staunton has come to love.
FYI - The year 2019 will mark the 50th annual occasion of this patriotic event started by the City of Staunton and the Statler Brothers. As Harold and Don would say "It all began with a walk in the park."