'Bark in the Park' today kicks off several days of July 4th events in Jacksonville
by Laura Gaddy
Jun 27, 2013 | 4489 views |  0 comments | 196 196 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville is gearing up for a week of Independence Day celebrations that begin today with a doggie competition and will culminate Wednesday, July 3, with a fireworks display at Jacksonville High School.

Preceding the fireworks will be performances by the Jacksonville Community Band and the Jacksonville Community Choir. The two 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, who is 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 and 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 commence today with “Bark in the Park” at the Frog Town Soccer Complex behind the Jacksonville Community Center. Bark in the Park is a canine competition that will take place at 6 p.m. A can of dog food or bag of dog food is required for admittance and will be donated to a local animal shelter.

Another Independence Day event takes place Friday when people will be admitted to the city pool for $1 on “Fun day at the city pool.” During the event, staff from the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department will organize contests and other events including a “wiggle bridge.”

Monday the city-sponsored events will resume with the “Toddler Challenge,” a competition for children between the ages of two and five. It’s free to view the Olympic-style competition, but parents must pay $2 for each of their children who take part in the event.

The celebration wraps 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 high school football stadium opens at 5 p.m. and 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.
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