Danedri Thompson
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There will be more to Gardner’s annual Fourth of July celebration than explosions in the sky. This year, organizers are adding entertainment at ground level, too.
“We’re doing a couple of different things actually,” said parks and recreation supervisor Matt McClure.
The Shawnee Concert Band will still play, but the concert line-up is exploding. Organizers have rented a stage for the event, and two acts will entertain crowds prior to the fireworks display.
From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on July 4, Billy Ebling and the Late for Dinner Band will play. Ebling is a blues performer from Kansas City, Mo.
“He’s played around the world,” McClure said.
A country act, the Big Time Grain Company, will perform at about 7:30 p.m. The band is based in Olathe and has played all over the Midwest.
“The set-up is going to be really good, too,” McClure said.
The stage will be set up to face east on the south side of the soccer fields at Celebration Park.
“You can sit on the soccer fields there and have a great view,” McClure said.
Concert goers will also get a decent view from the Pioneer Ridge Middle School practice field.
“The bands will be a good draw, and it will be something different,” he said.
Following the concert, and once it’s dark, fireworks will light up the night sky.
In addition to the new concert line-up, city organizers have also lined up food vendors. McClure says the vendors will be similar to those who sell food at the Johnson County Fair, though there won’t be as many. A city-run concession stand will also be open.
Of course, tailgating will also be encouraged, but only using gas grill. No charcoal grills will be allowed.
For children, bounce houses will be available.
“We’ll have plenty of stuff for people to do,” McClure said.
With so many things happening at Celebration Park on the Fourth of July, McClure is advising people to arrive early for parking and prime seating locations. He referred people to the city’s website at www.gardnerkansas.gov to check out the parking plan for the event.
The extra parking coordination will hopefully eliminate some of the traffic issues in previous years.
“It’s kind of bottle necked, but I think we have a good plan in place this year,” McClure said.
He estimates that 6,000 attended in 2013, up from 5,000 the year before. City officials agreed to move the fireworks display to Celebration Park two years ago.
“Once we moved it to Celebration Park, the numbers kind of spiked,” McClure said.
With the addition of bands and vendors, he expects those numbers will grow. He anticipates crowds of up to 8,000.
Before the Fourth of July moved to Celebration Park, members of the Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the event. With the move to a city-owned facility, the Gardner Parks and Recreation took over more organizing for the Independence Day celebration.
“This year, the city is taking the reins with the Chamber’s help, of course,” McClure said.
The fireworks continue to be purchased through corporate sponsorships and donations.
“The venue is perfect,” McClure said. The fireworks, shot from across the pond at the park, can be viewed both in the sky and as a reflection on the water.
“It’s kind of unique,” he said.