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July 4 events pack em in

By all accounts, the Bryan County Independence Day festivities were a booming success.

From live music to colonial reenactments, organizers at Fort McAllister and the Richmond Hill Recreation Association say turnout was high and everything went smoothly.

Approximately 5,000 people came out to J.F. Gregory Park for the RHRA’s annual ‘Ol Time Family Festival. A bit further down the road, around 300 people visited Fort McAllister for their colonial-style festivities.

"A lot more people came out than what I thought it would be," RHRA event coordinator Shelly Sauls said. "Especially considering the parking situation and all the construction going on in the park, but everything went absolutely great."

The event in the park included a bouncy playground, live music and the annual Richmond Hill Idol competition.

Thirteen local young people sang one song of their choice before a panel of judges and a gathering crowd of hundreds of people. In the end, Nick Jones, who brought along his guitar and performed a song he wrote himself, was crowned 2009 Richmond Hill Idol.

"It’s a great feeling being recognized in my hometown doing something that I love," Jones said. "There were a lot of awesome singers in this year’s competition, and it’s really a privilege."

His prize was studio recording time at Savannah's Elevated Basement studio, which Jones said he will put to good use. Jones has written nearly 40 songs and said he looks forward to getting a few of them professionally recorded. He aspires to break into the music business and said this is a "good start."

Immediately following Idol, the Richmond Hill-based rock band Shift N Gears hit the stage. The band impressed with a two-hour set of cover songs that ranged from Kiss to Shinedown to Judas Priest to Seether.

"We thoroughly enjoyed the show," SNG drummer/singer Dave Gramazio said. "It was very exciting knowing that we were playing for people we see on the street."

While SNG was playing, Larry Barker and the Bay Street Band were rocking out across the street at Station Xchange. Both bands played right up until the fireworks, which lit up the sky just after 9 p.m.

The Fort MacAllister event went very smoothly as well, according to park director Danny Brown. In addition to patriotic musket and cannon firings, the day was filled with activities for the whole family including wheelbarrow races, tug of war, horseshoes and sack races.

"We made it to both events today," said Richmond Hill resident and mother of three Jill Fields. "The kids loved the Fort Mac games and my husband and I loved Shift N Gears."

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