Photo by Theo Tate
Children ride the Dragon rollercoaster at the Patriots In The Park carnival last year.
GRANITE CITY — On July 2, 1997, the Patriots In The Park Festival made its debut at Wilson Park.
More than 15,000 people gathered for the five-day Fourth of July festival, which included live entertainment, a carnival, softball and mud volleyball tournaments, a car show and the biggest fireworks display in Granite City’s history.
Since then, the festival has been the biggest Fourth of July celebration in Granite City every year.
This year, the festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary. It begins June 30 and ends July 4, and the theme is “Celebrate 20.”
The Master Voice Choir, a 100-member choir that performed in the first festival, is returning this year after a three-year absence and will perform at 8:15 p.m. July 4 at the main stage at Coolidge Middle School.
“We missed them and we’re happy to have them back,” Granite City Park District Director Dave Williams said.
Fireworks will start going off at 9:15 p.m.
We Are Messengers, a Contemporary Christian group from Ireland, also will perform on the main stage at 6:30 p.m. July 4. The group has a performance in Maine on July 2 and in Oklahoma on July 3.
There will be also a parachute demonstration by the Mid-America Sport Parachute club at 7:30 p.m. July 4.
Williams said a committee meets every February to make plans for the festival.
“A lot of it is figuring out what entertainment we want,” the director said. “A lot of it is fundraising because we have to raise a lot of money to offset the cost of fireworks and sound guys and all of that stuff. Fundraising is a big part of it every year.”
The carnival will kick off the festival at 6 p.m. June 30. Carnival coupons can be purchased for $2, which is good for all rides, on June 20 and July 2.
Armbands can be purchased for $22 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. July 1 and July 3.
The car show is scheduled for July 2. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and ends at noon.
The County Fair Days event — where crafts and arts displays are sold — is scheduled for July 2 and 3 at the Centennial Pavilion.
On July 3, Unity Baptist Church will sponsor a Sunday evening gospel and children’s theater presentation at Wilson Park.
“They’ll do a half-hour patriotic play at 6:30 p.m.,” Williams said. “That should be a fun evening on Sunday night to come out and see a patriotic play as well as some good music.”
The Chris Talley Trio will perform from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Wilson Park. The band has produced six CDs since its inception in 2000.
The festival also will have the 5K run on July 2 and the double-elimination softball tournament from July 2-4.
A year ago, the festival’s theme was Pledge To Freedom and the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America was the main entertainment.
“The Air Force Band was awesome,” Williams said. “They were really good. We do like to change things up a little bit. We try to change the entertainment a little bit every year. There are a lot of folks who work on this for a long time.”
For information, contact the Park District office at (618) 877-3059.