GARNER, N.C. (WNCN) –Thousands of people grabbed their lawn chairs and blankets and headed to Garner’s Lake Benson Park on Sunday.

The town welcomed families to take part in the annual Independence Day celebration – a day before the Fourth of July.

Garner Mayor Ken Marshburn said it’s their biggest event in the summer.

“It’s just a real family-oriented and family-friendly event that the town is happy to put on, and we hope to do it for a long time to come,” he said.

Marshburn said their grand firework show at the end of the night is typically what keeps people coming back year after year. But the celebration also includes performances from the North Carolina Symphony that adds a unique, old-fashioned patriotic touch.

Marshburn said he was unsure if higher gas prices would persuade more people to stay in town and choose events like Garner’s to celebrate locally, but either way, he also anticipated a larger crowd Sunday evening.

Skylier Slaughter, who attended the celebration with her husband and kids, said they chose to arrive at the event early to get a good parking spot.

As a military family, she said, “Obviously, being military, it means a lot to be free and come out to celebrate.”

Slaughter said it’s an event the entire family enjoyed but after a long afternoon in the heat, she said she was looking forward to one thing — a nice cold air-conditioned ride home.

She laughed and looked at her 1-year-old boy named Jett and said, “It’s been fun, huh?”