Dolphin will be parade grand marshal

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2016

By Sandy Forstner, Austin Area Chamber of Commerce executive director

Plan your Fourth of July weekend in Austin. Invite your family and friends and join in our annual celebration of community and country — Freedom Fest!

This year’s calendar of events will span four days, beginning on Friday, July 1 with the Jaycees’ Street Dance and ending July 4 with a spectacular (larger than ever) fireworks display over Bandshell Park.

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In between there will lots to do for all of you.

Let’s start with the parade. About 100 units are entered in this year’s Independence Day Parade, which begins at 11 a.m. from the corner of Fourth Ave and Fourth Street Northeast (City Hall). The parade will follow Fourth Avenue to Main Street, and then proceed south to Bandshell Park.

One of Austin’s most colorful and engaging leaders, Larry Dolphin, will be recognized as parade grand marshal. Dolphin, executive director of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, is retiring after 26 years. This will be everyone’s opportunity to applaud him for all he has done to educate and engage us all in the great outdoors. He’ll be joined by a host of Friends of the Nature Center.

The parade will feature eight musical entries, including the Austin High School Marching Band, Alumni Band, Albert Lea High School Band, Blooming Prairie’s Stix of Fury, Austin Community Band and the Rochester Caledonian Pipe and Drum Corp.

Veterans will lead the way, as they do every year. They will be recognized and thanked during opening ceremonies in the park, as well. It is fitting and right that we do so here and everywhere across our country on Independence Day. Take the opportunity to join in saluting our veterans.

The first five Pillars of the City will be unveiled, immediately after the flag raising ceremony.

Local talent will be featured throughout Freedom Fest with 24 hours of music scheduled. The Jaycees get things started with their street dance at Torge’s Live, Friday night. The Eagles host a car show and live music in their parking lot, July 2. And Bandshell Park will showcase entertainers on stage and on the grounds from 2-10 p.m. July 3 and 2:30-10 p.m. on the Fourth of July.

Got kids? Bring them down to Bandshell Park, July 3 and 4 for free rides, slides, games and contests. Enjoy a taste of summer at any one of 13 great food concessions. Enter the Power Pedal Pull, July 3, and take a fast ride on the 80-foot zip line. Fourth of July entertainment will include a “little bit of country” with a kids petting zoo, horse-drawn wagon rides, bags tournament and fire department “water wars.”

Both days will be capped by fantastic fireworks displays over Bandshell Park at dusk.

The entire family is encouraged to register for active events, July 2, including the 5-mile Hog Jog and 25-mile Dan Ulwelling Bike Race. You can also take your kids fishing on Eastside Lake at 10 a.m. on Saturday for bragging rights and a chance at winning some great prizes. There is no entry fee.

A complete list of all Freedom Fest activities is listed in this special section and on the chamber’s website, Freedom Fest is organized by the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce with the financial support of more than 160 business and organizational sponsors. It’s their way of saying “thank you” for your business throughout the year. Remember to support those who support our community: Buy Mower, Grow Mower!