Jacksonville will host a fireworks show at the Golden Eagle Football Stadium on Wednesday evening and on Thursday Oxford will host the “Freedom Festival,” a day-long celebration that will end with a fireworks display.
Festivities at Oxford Lake park will begin at 8 a.m. Thursday with an event for seniors. After the opening event and before the 9 p.m. fireworks display, the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department will host a parade, tricycle and bicycle races, a pet show, free carnival games and swim races.
Jacksonville’s Independence Day celebrations will culminate Wednesday with a fireworks display at Jacksonville High School.
Performances by the Calhoun County Community Band and the Jacksonville Community Choir will precede the fireworks show at the stadium. The two musical groups will salute the armed forces, which will be represented by a uniformed member from each branch.
“This is going to be one of the biggest events we’ve ever put on in Jacksonville,” said Donnie Machen, president of the community band. “As we finish, the lights go off and the fireworks start.”
Organizers said the pairing of the community band, which formed about a year ago, and the community choir, which was formed especially for this performance, makes this year’s Independence Day celebration different from those typically held in Jacksonville.
“It’s exciting, too, because I think a smaller town does have that Andy Griffith feel and everyone knows everyone,” said Bob White, who is directing the mass choir. “In a bigger city it’s harder to get folks to buy in.”
White began organizing the choir after Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith started recruiting musicians from area choirs to take part in the celebration. White, a music minister at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, said he tried to include all community choirs, but only church choirs stepped forward to participate.
About 50 members from 12 area churches attended the first mass choir practice Tuesday. White said people can still join the choir by attending the Tuesday practice at the Jacksonville Community Center at 6:30 p.m. He added that he would like to see the number of participants double by the time the performance takes place next week.
“This is an exciting celebration and I want it to sound good,” White told the choir Tuesday.
Leading up to the big celebration Wednesday are several other events that started Thursday with “Bark in the Park” at the Frog Town Soccer Complex. There the city hosted a canine competition with categories like cutest dog. Organizers also collected dog food donations for a local animal shelter.
Another Independence Day event takes place today when Jacksonville will host “fun day” at the city pool. During the event, staff from the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department will organize contests and other activities.
Monday the city-sponsored events will resume with the “toddler challenge,” a competition for children between the ages of 2 and 5. It’s free to view the Olympic-style competition, but parents must pay $2 for each child who takes part in the event.
The celebrations in Jacksonville wrap up Wednesday with the performance by the community musical groups at 8 p.m. and the fireworks display at 9 p.m. The gate to the stadium opens at 5 p.m., kids’ carnival games will be played starting at 6 p.m. until it’s time for the musical performance.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star. Oxford:
Oxford Lake Park, Thursday
8 a.m. — Around the lake ramble for senior adults
8:30 a.m. — Parade registration and parade
9 a.m. — Parade featuring children in patriotic costumes
9:15 a.m. — Opening ceremonies
9:30 a.m. — Tricycle and bicycle races
9:40 a.m.— Pet Show
9:45 a.m. - noon — Free carnival games and prizes for children
10 a.m. — Caricature artist draws free cartoon-like sketches
10:30 a.m. — Karate Demonstration
1 p.m. — Swim Races at Oxford Lake swimming pool
9 p.m. — Fireworks display
Friday — “Fun day” at the city pool, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday — “Toddler challenge,” 6 p.m.
Wednesday — “Jax-fest and fireworks celebration,” 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Staff Writer Laura Gaddy: 256-135-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.