Three Madison County patriots will be recognized at the Spirit of America Festival in Decatur on the Fourth of July.

Retired Alabama Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class David Carney and two Vietnam prisoners of war -- retired Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness and the late Michael Christian, who retired as a Navy lieutenant commander - will be honored during Saturday's 6 p.m. VIP Program at the Spirit of America Stage at Decatur's Point Mallard. The VIP Program is one of several activities taking place during the July 3-4 festival, which is one of the largest Independence Day celebrations in the state. The festival is free to the public.

Carney, who is known as a cheerleader for the military and military families and who is active in several Huntsville-based military organizations, will receive the festival's Humanitarian Award. The award recognizes his work in organizing deployment and Welcome Home events for units in North Alabama since 2003, his involvement with the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army and the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition, and his work on such projects as Operation Christmas Bear, the Veterans Day Dinner and Parade, and the Veterans Memorial. Carney is also a motivational speaker and the author of a self-help book titled "The Power of Attitude: Ya Gotta Have Wanna."

Thorsness, a Medal of Honor recipient who spent six years as a Vietnam POW, will receive the festival's Audie Murphy Award for Patriotism. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for a mission in April 1967 in which he engaged an enemy MiG-21 in a firefight that saved two of his fellow American pilots. A few days after the successful firefight, which is depicted in a painting by artist Bill Phillips, Thorsness was engaged yet again by a MiG aircraft that shot him down. He was captured and spent the next six years in the Hanoi Hilton in North Vietnam. Thorsness' experiences as a Vietnam POW are retold in his new book "Surviving Hell: A POWs Journey." Thorsness has also served in the state senate in Washington state, and is currently serving as vice chairman of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. He resides in Madison with his wife.

Christian, a Huntsville native who died in 1983 in a house fire in Virginia, will be recognized with the festival's Barrett C. Shelton Freedom Award. Christian was a Navy pilot who was also a Vietnam POW for six years. He is the POW who became known after the war for the American flags he managed to sew together while a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton. He created a needle out of bamboo and collected pieces of red and white fabric. He sewed the fabric to his blue prison shirt to make a flag, and the flag became an inspiration to his fellow prisoners. Upon discovery, the flag was taken away and Christian was beaten unmercifully. As soon as he was well enough, Christian sewed a second flag.

The Spirit of America Festival will begin Friday at 4 p.m. with evening activities including the Spirit Idol Contest, Miss Teen Point Mallard Pageant and the Guitar Hero Contest. On Saturday, activities begin at 9 a.m. and include a Children's Bike Parade, entertainment, children's games, a Ping Pong Ball Drop, the VIP Program and the Miss Point Mallard Pageant. Fireworks will begin at 10 p.m. Craft and food vendors will be open on both days.

For more information about the Spirit of America Festival, check out the website at or call 800-232-5449 or 350-2028.

The Spirit of America Festival is just one of several events planned in the area to celebrate the Fourth of July. Here is a rundown of other events:

Huntsville -
Aca,!Ac Downtown Trolley Tour - Although not an activity specifically planned for the Fourth of July, this historical tour, offered on Saturdays during the summer, is narrated by historian and author Jacque Gray Reeves and includes a trolley ride through Huntsville's Twickenham District. Tours begin at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. at Alabama Constitution Village, 109 Gates Ave. Tickets are $8. For more information, call 535-6564.
Aca,!Ac Huntsville Ghost Walk - This fun ghostly event, planned for Saturdays through October, is also offered this year on the Fourth of July. Starting at 6 p.m., this downtown Huntsville tour answers questions about the angry ghost in the courthouse, the haunting tune phantom children sing while playing on Walker Street and other mysteries. Tour begins at Harrison Brothers Hardware, 124 South Side Square. For more information, visit
Aca,!Ac Independence Day Celebration - Bridge Street Town Centre invites the public to a day full of entertainment and culminating in Huntsville's largest fireworks display. For more information, call 536-3833. For those who would like to enjoy a picnic dinner and fireworks on the Bridge Street lake, call 503-3875 for reservations.
Aca,!Ac July 4th Tea Party - A nationwide special-interest Tea Party will come to Huntsville on Saturday at the fairgrounds at Joe Davis Stadium. Barbecue dinners will be available for purchase from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be featured speakers from 8 to 9 p.m. and a fireworks display at 9.
Aca,!Ac Huntsville Stars vs. West Tenn and Independence Day Fireworks - Game starts at Joe Davis Stadium at 6 p.m. Following the baseball game there will be a home run derby, the annual Diamond Dig and a fireworks show. For ticket information, call 882-2562.

Madison -
Aca,!Ac Art on Main - A great way to celebrate the Fourth of July is to enjoy a stroll through historic downtown Madison, shop for art and dine in the downtown area's restaurants. Art on Main will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Madison Arts Council. For more information, call 461-8938.
Aca,!Ac Fourth of July Fireworks -- The Madison Parks and Recreation Department will host Fourth of July activities at Dublin Park beginning at 1 p.m. There will be free inflatable activities until 7 p.m., including a Kiddie Corner, a 70-foot obstacle course, three-in-one combo, 62-foot water slide and children's circus train. There will be a free fireworks show at dark. Concessions will be available. For more information, call 772-9300.

Scottsboro - Fourth of July on the Tennessee River at Goose Pond Colony offers an evening of music, entertainment, food and fireworks at the Goose Pond Ampitheater that includes a boat parade. The event begins at 6 p.m. For more information, call 800-268-2884 or check out the website at

Guntersville - The All-American Celebration includes a boat parade at 2 p.m. and a fireworks display coordinated to patriotic music over Lake Guntersville at 9 p.m. Visitors can enjoy the fireworks show from Civitan Park or from their boat on the water. The parade is best viewed from the Kiwanis Pier on Lurleen B. Wallace Drive. The event is free. For more information, call 582-3612 or visit the website at

Florence -- Shoals Spirit of Freedom Celebration at McFarland Park in Florence will include a day of music, food, fun activities and more. The day will culminate with one of the largest fireworks shows in the Southeast. For more information, call 383-2525.

Town Creek - The third annual Star Spangled Fourth of July Spectacular at Doublehead Resort begins at 3 p.m. and includes a fireworks display at dusk. The event includes entertainment by the Kerry Gilbert Band, The Gary Nichols Band and headliner country music star Rodney Atkins. There will also be a Star Spangled Talent Contest and a professional bull riding production. Tickets are $30 and student tickets are $20 with a student ID. Doublehead Resort is located at 145 County Road 314. For tickets and directions, call 800-685-9267 or check out the website at

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16