HUNTSVILLE — When Huntsville Mayor Dennis Jeffers says next week’s fireworks display is going to be bigger and better than years past, he is serious.
“It’s going to be the biggest fireworks show we’ve ever had in Huntsville, let’s put it that way,” Jeffers said Monday.
Jeffers, who is overseeing final preparations for next week’s Firemen’s Fourth Festival, said the town stepped up its commitment for this year’s fireworks display, which will cap the two-day festival on Wednesday, July 4.
“A lot of people felt like we had a bigger fireworks show last year, but in reality we signed the same contract we have for years,” Jeffers said. This year, though, is different.
“In monetary terms, we spent a few thousand more dollars,” he said. “It amounts to about 800 additional shots. It should be a solid half-hour show.”
WBNT radio, 105.5 FM, will do a simulcast to prepare festival-goers for the fireworks, with the patriotic broadcast beginning around 9:40 p.m., as darkness begins to ascend on downtown Huntsville.
Thousands of people from throughout Scott County and beyond are expected in Huntsville for the festival, which will begin Tuesday evening and carry over into Wednesday with live music, vendors and games.
It isn’t just the fireworks display that will be bigger in 2018. In the midst of an election year, political candidates of all sorts will carry their message to the courthouse mall downtown, and packing the venue with additional vendors and beefing up the annual Independence Day parade, which will step off at 11 a.m. Wednesday east of Huntsville Middle School.
“The parade is going to be huge,” Jeffers said. “I think every politician in Scott County is wanting to throw candy.”
Back again this year will be carnival rides for kids, along with several of the new events from last year’s revamped Firemen’s Fourth Festival.
Not all of last year’s changes will be implemented for a second consecutive year. Jeffers said 2017’s festival was an exercise in trial and error.
“Some of the things we tried worked, and we’ll do them again,” he said. “But some of the things we tried failed miserably, and we won’t be doing them this year.”
One major change this year is that the festival will coincide with the monthly county-wide prayer meeting. Originally organized by late Sheriff Mike Cross and carried on by several of the community’s church pastors, the prayer meeting is typically held on the second Tuesday of each month. This month it will be bumped up to the first Tuesday and held on the mall — the site where it originally began.
Dallas West will take the stage at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, and the prayer meeting will begin at 6:40 p.m.
Jeffers isn’t exactly sure how long the prayer meeting will last, but two gospel groups — Upward Bound and Fishers of Men — will take the stage later in the evening. For now, the schedule simply says, “TBA.”
“We think they’ll be up around 8 p.m., but they said they’ll sing until midnight if they have to,” Jeffers said. “They’re just excited about having church down there.”
On Wednesday, the entertainment theme will turn away from gospel music. With Oneida’s Josh Ayers, of Ayerwaves Music, organizing things, there will be something for people of all musical tastes.
Wednesday’s lineup will begin with River Rising, a bluegrass group, at 2 p.m., followed by alternative acoustic artist Gerald Handwright at 3:30 p.m. At 4:45 p.m., another acoustic singer, Raven Brummett, will take the stage, followed by country singer Ryan Patrick at 5:30 p.m.
Americana-pop singer Dan O’rourke will sing at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, followed by Sugar Lime Blue, a rock-blues group, at 8:15 p.m. That will last until the fireworks simulcast begins at 9:40 p.m.
Wednesday’s events will begin with the New River Run at 7 a.m. While the 5K and 10K has been open for registration for weeks, race-day registration will begin at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning.
An all-you-can-eat, $5 pancake breakfast, hosted by Huntsville Fire & Rescue, will begin at the same time the race is getting underway, and continue until 10 a.m.
The parade lineup will begin at 9:30 a.m., with the parade itself stepping off at 11 a.m.