With Red White & BOOM, we celebrate the patriotism of our community. Thousands have made the ultimate sacrifice to gain this nation’s independence. On Independence Day, we honor the liberty from which they fought, and we celebrate the birth of our Country and the basic principle it was founded on … freedom. – Ricky Shelton
Cookeville – Step back in time, if only for a moment.
It’s almost Independence Day 2014 and America is ready to celebrate. Cookeville hasn’t had a fireworks show in years, at least not officially, but head west down I-40, and Nashville has established the largest show in Tennessee, maybe even the south.
When Ricky Shelton became the Mayor of Cookeville, he and his wife Shannon wanted to reintroduce Cookeville to a fireworks show that would give Music City a run for it’s money. If they were going to do it, they would to do it big. The Sheltons would soon create an event called Red White & BOOM, and over the next nine years, it would grow into the second-largest event of its kind in the state and a driver of the economy generating 100’s of thousands of dollars in spending for the community.
“Shannon and I started Red White & BOOM nine years ago when I became Mayor because we saw a need to celebrate Independence Day and bring back fireworks that no longer existed,” Shelton told the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. “This has grown into our city and region’s largest event and brings Thousands of people to Cookeville.”
When temperatures rise, days lengthen and evening shadows grow longer, planning begins, planning that takes months with costs reaching into the six-figure range.
“Planning an event of this magnitude takes many months and costs over $125,000 to put on,” admitted Shelton. “We have 30 awesome business partners, most of who have been with us from the beginning, plus Cookeville and Putnam County that believe in and financially support this event so that it is free for all to attend.”
It’s a beautiful thing when families come together, stare into the night and watch as symbolic bombs burst in air. There is something pure about it, something American.
Shelton and Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter have been a team since the event’s inception.
“Mayor Porter has been a partner with me from the beginning and his team at Putnam County Parks and Recreation ensure the smooth operations at the Fairgrounds,” said Shelton. “I also appreciate all of our City and County law enforcement, fire and emergency services personnel who help ensure a safe environment.”
What is the community impact of an event like this? Set aside patriotism and camaraderie, and you will also see a tremendous impact economically, most notably in tourism spending, community promotion and return on investment.
“Police estimate that over 50,000 people come to Cookeville July 4 to see our fireworks spectacular,” said Shelton.
Shelton said none of it would be possible without great business partners.
“Less than 15% of the funds used to facilitate this event come from the city and county government, and those monies are deposited into a restricted fund and used only to pay toward the fireworks show,” he said. “This is a great example of a very successful public-private partnership.”
Shelton’s passion is still the lifeblood of the event.
“We must always remember and thank all who have served and continue to sacrifice on our behalf defending our Republic, safeguarding our security and protecting our liberty,” he said.
Back to that family staring up at the stars. Why is the starlight interrupted by fireworks? What do the words to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A” really mean? Those lessons may be the most important part of the celebration, according to Shelton.
“It is important to involve children and teach them what Independence Day is about,” continued Shelton. “That is one reason we have a kid’s bike, wheelchair, stroller, wagon, scooter and tricycle parade around the Courthouse at 10 a.m. That is followed by a patriotic ceremony at the Courthouse at 10:30 to honor some of our Veterans, all on July fourth.”
With Cookeville now known for the second-largest fireworks show in Tennessee businesses are drawn to the area. According to the TN Dept of Tourism analytics, Red White & BOOM was the most successful engagement and clicked event on their social media with 89,211 click-throughs in 2022.
“No other city in the Upper Cumberland has their show on this date so that everyone can travel to Cookeville to enjoy our show,” said Shelton. “The world-renowned PYRO Shows continues to ensure the fireworks show is bigger and better each year.”
Shelton says he and Shannon want to continue growing the event for years. This year there will be 20 food trucks on-site and even a tank.
Yes, a tank.
Tank – The U.S. Army is providing and M1 Abrams tank for viewing at this year’s Red White & Boom. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army
The U.S. Army is bringing an M1 Abrams Tank for everyone to view, and the event has partnered with The Old Gray for a country music lineup that includes Craig Wayne Boyd, Lily Grace and Shane Profitt. Fireworks launch at 9:05 p.m. and will synchronize to music that will air on 106.9 Kick Country.
Parking, admission, music and fireworks are always free and open to the public.
“Shannon and I established the nonprofit foundation BetterCookeville to help make a positive difference in our community,” admitted Shelton. “BetterCookeville has no Executive Director or paid staff. All of the money we raise is reinvested back in and for the community.”
Although Shelton is no longer the mayor, he will continue to plan and organize Red, White and BOOM. Freedom never gets old, and when temperatures rise and Independence Day rolls around, America will always come together to reflect on blessings and unheralded heroes.
Why has Shelton made Red White & Boom his mission? Patriotism, check. Celebration of the military, check. But there is another reason.
“Because we love our community and for the enjoyment and betterment of the citizens in our region,” he said. “Next year will be our 10th-anniversary event and we are already working on some awesome, fun plans. Stay tuned!”
Community, sacrifice and freedom are worth celebrating.
“With Red White & BOOM, we celebrate the patriotism of our community,” said Shelton. “Thousands have made the ultimate sacrifice to gain this nation’s independence. On Independence Day, we honor the liberty from which they fought, and we celebrate the birth of our Country and the basic principle it was founded on … freedom.”
For full event details, visit www.redwhiteandboomcookeville.com. If your business would like to partner with the event in the future email Shelton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gates at the fairgrounds open at 3:30 p.m. and music starts at 5 on July 4.
Red White & BOOM is Presented by these partners:
LifeChurch, Ford Lincoln of Cookeville, Cash Express, Store Smart, The Old Gray Events Center, Coca-Cola, Rogers Group, Lite Rock 95.9, 106-9 Kicks Country, Rock 93-7, News Talk 94.1, Food City, Averitt, Golden Oak Sedation Dentistry, Clayton Homes, Better Together, Landers Trade, Real Estate Professionals of TN, Twin Lakes, Wilson Bank & Trust, Vulcan, Putnam Properties, T.W. Frierson Contractors, Middle TN Eye Associates, TX Roadhouse, McGriff, First National Bank, Holiday Inn, Lamar, Cookeville Lifestyle Magazine, Upper Cumberland Business Journal, Shelton Consulting Solutions, BetterCookeville, Cookeville Gas Department, City of Cookeville and Putnam County.
Image by aopsan on Freepik.