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By SHAINA STOCKTON
HILLSVILLE — People from all over the region gathered at the Hillsville VFW on Saturday to celebrate the first-ever Christian Family Fun Day.
The event, sponsored by dozens of churches in the Twin Counties and beyond, kicked off with a parade at 10:30 a.m., followed by free food, games and entertainment from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
People smiled from their decorated vehicles while others followed on foot and distributed pamphlets for their respective churches along the parade route.
The children on the floats sang hymns and threw candies to the crowd as they passed.
After the parade, festivities began outside the VFW with a balloon release sponsored by Twin County Funerals. The crowd stood in the form of a cross and, on cue, released 500 red balloons into the sky.
The purpose of the event was for Christians to celebrate together and take time to appreciate their personal relationships with God.
“So many times, life gets ahead of us and we take our salvation for granted,” said Twin County Funerals director Stephanie Rinehart.
Every aspect of the event was free, including the games, food and entertainment. The local churches set up booths that offered hot dogs, popcorn, snow cones and more. Bouncy castles, chalk drawings, dunking booths and hayrides were among the many different activities available.
Three stages were set up for various acts throughout the day. The preachers’ stage inside the VFW featured speakers Austin Caviness, Vickie Viars, Marty Wood, Theron Phillips and Cas Horton. Each had a special message to share with the audience.
“We live in a world where, if we don’t have [God’s] strength to lean on, we won’t make it,” said Caviness, a news anchor with WXII Channel 12 in Winston-Salem, N.C. He explained that faith was something that must be exercised, and that “if you don’t use it, someone will make you lose it.”
The two outdoor stages featured music, drama, skits and dance acts. Music performers included The Alleys, Twice Born, Ben Tidwell (with Donna Godwin), Mount Zion Holiness Choir, Emily Arnold, Tremayne Blair, The Hillsville Homecoming Choir and Jeff Pickett.
Dramas and skits were performed by Woodlawn and Galax Pentecostal Holiness churches, Liberty Hill United Methodist Dance, Mount Zion Holiness Drama, Firesteppers, Cliffview Church of God, Hillsville First Baptist, Alpha Y Omega Drama and Coulson Church Puppet Ministry.
Seventeen businesses and organizations, along with several anonymous donors, lent a hand to help make the event possible. These included Twin County Funerals, Race Inn, Bert’s Garage, Red Hill General Store, Carroll County Recycling, Hanks Insurance, Hills Trucking, New River Tire Recycling, Southern States of Hillsville, Mile High Burger, Lyons & Mitchell Attorneys, Webb Pharmacy and Hardee's restaurants of Mount Airy, N.C., Hillsville, Galax and Wytheville.