ALPENA - The Fourth of July celebration is one that has grown to become popular with people in Northeast Michigan, but others around the state as well and this year promises to provide an array of things to do to celebrate the holiday.
The day begins with the annual Lafarge Fourth of July Parade which begins at 11a.m. The event kicks off the holiday in grand fashion, as thousands line the streets in Alpena to admire the floats and collect candy thrown from them. Alpena Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jackie Krawczak said the quality of the parade has improved the last couple years and expects a high quality one Friday.
"The parade has come together nicely with a lot of very cool floats," Krawczak said. "We made some changes to it last year and people are already entering them and coming through with some great stuff. It follows the same route. It starts at the fairgrounds and ends at the sanctuary. It is popular and a great way to start the holiday?"
Once people dispense from the parade, they have many options from which to choose. There is The Alpena News Sand Castle Contest at Starlite Beach, as well as the Thunder Bay Maritime Festival at the Sanctuary. There is a Cardboard Regatta Race in the Thunder Bay River, which also has become popular. Thunder Bay Media and Outreach Coordinator Stephanie Gandulla said the festival outside the museum will offer a lot to do, especially for children.
"There will be all sorts of fun and we expect about 10,000 people throughout the day," Gandulla said. "The tall ship Peacemaker will be here for deck tours, a water slide, music with a Great Lakes theme, a boat building activity,vendors face painting and just something for everyone. It is free from 10 to 5."
At 8 a.m. the sandcastle contest begins, as people begin creating their sculptures, which will judged later in the day. The Alpena News Director of Sales Laura Lancewicz said this year there are several divisions for the contest. There is one for one or two builders, another with three or more and then a kids division," Lancewicz said. "The only rules is you have to build your sand creation and you have to use all natural resources from the beach."
Lancewicz said last year people made Winnie the Pooh, a castle kingdom, a potato sitting on a couch and just a lot of great things."
The children's art will be judged at 1:30 p.m. And the other two divisions at 3 p.m. Lancewicz encourages people to come to the beach and watch the creations come to life throughout the day, or stop by later in the day to see the finished products.
The finale is, of course, the fireworks show over Thunder Bay, which will commence at dark. Alpena's fireworks presentation is one of the largest in the north and caps off Independence Day. Krawczak said the chamber has been raising money for the event via button sales and other donations. She said she has received correspondence from people out of the area who praise Alpena for the fireworks display.
"We expect that there will be people coming in for the whole weekend because the holiday is on a Friday," Krawczak said. "We are told over and over again from people that Alpena has the best Fourth of July celebration they have ever been to."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.