ASHLAND – Ashland has gathered at Memorial Stadium for the past several decades to note Independence Day with games, contests, food and fireworks, and this year will be no exception.
Festivities begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 4, with fireworks concluding the evening at around 9:45 p.m.
The evening is a combination of efforts from the Ashland Rescue Department, which organizes the games, concessions and flag ceremony, along with the Ashland Community Medical Board, which arranges and pays for the fireworks. The Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce provides the music to accompany the pyrotechnics.
The Ashland Rescue Department took over organization of the event last year from Kent Rung, who had put together the annual Fourth of July celebration for over 20 years.
Before Rung took over, there was a gap of nearly two decades when the community did not hold a July 4 event. The tradition had started during World War II and continued until 1978, when the event conflicted with Stir-Up, which has since been rescheduled to later in the month of July.
In tribute to the past, the event will include many of the activities Rung originated, said Heather Kennedy, a member of the rescue department’s Fourth of July committee along with Tiffany Alcorn and Renae Hart.
“A lot of what we did last year and will incorporate this year is following what Mr. Rung did,” she said.
The committee has also made a few improvements upon last year, even though the event was a success.
“Last year it went really well, we had a really good turn out,” said Kennedy.
They are adding more family-friendly games and activities, which will be located on the football field and in the elementary school parking lot near the stadium. Last year, the football field was not available because it had recently been resurfaced.
The games will include an obstacle course, football toss, parachute, ring toss and more.
Because the weather on July 4 is typically hot, those in attendance will have a chance to cool off with a few activities that the Ashland Volunteer Fire Department will bring which involve water, Kennedy said.
Another way to cool off is at the concession stand, where there will be freeze pops, cold beverages like pop, water and sports drinks, along with snack items and popcorn. The concession stand opens at 7 p.m. A 50-50 Raffle will be held during the event, with tickets being sold at the concession stand until 9:30 p.m.
Ashland-Greenwood Scout Troop 34 members will conduct the flag ceremony at 7:30 p.m., followed by the playing of the National Anthem.
The “Most Patriotic” costume contest, another of Rung’s ideas, will also be revamped slightly this year. Kennedy said they have added more age groups, with two winners for each group. The age groups will be infant to five years old, six to 11 years old, 12 to 18 years old and 19 and up. The contest starts at 8 p.m.
Fireworks are scheduled to begin around 9:45 p.m. Last year, a storm system heading toward Ashland caused organizers to speed things up in order to get the fireworks in before the storm hit. Keep in mind that weather could adjust the schedule during this year’s event as well.