Austin's children are festival's grand marshals
By Nikki Merfeld
The Heart of America Festival will celebrate youth as the community celebrates the nation's independence.
The children of Austin have been designated this year's festival grand marshals. They'll be featured prominently throughout the events, including the Fourth of July parade and the annual Concert in the Park, said festival Executive Director Cindy Samuel.
"The reason the festival board voted them as the official grand marshals is we just feel …; they really are the future of our nation," she said. "We have wonderful youth here in Austin."
Children from various groups and schools will be in Friday's parade.
"Each child will receive an American flag the day of the parade," said Samuel.
Austin Area Catholic Schools students dressed in Uncle Sam outfits will walk the parade route, handing out "American memories" -- souvenirs of this year's Independence Day.
Also, each child who participates will be entered in a drawing for a weekend stay at Eagan's Holiday Inn Express and tickets to the Mall of America's Camp Snoopy.
Other prizes will also be awarded.
Kids don't have to tune in to Nickelodeon to see the popular character SpongeBob SquarePants. He'll be strolling around Horace Austin Park after the parade, mingling with people, playing games and dining on the array of food offered by vendors.
Standard Saturday festival sporting events, including the Hog Jog, Walk for Health and Friendship Bike Ride, return this year. A fishing contest will again be held at East Side Lake's pier.
"Each entrant will receive a red, white and blue Heart of America bobber," Samuel said.
A "surprise" birthday party will be presented at 7:40 p.m. Saturday in Bandshell Community Park. Everyone present will be given a slice of a 6-foot-square flag cake designed by Cashwise Foods.
"There will be servers with beautiful silver trays that will walk the aisles and offer each guest a piece of cake," Samuel said.
The party is sponsored by Local 9.
"When Local 9 presents the Spotlight on Freedom, they'll be led off by a snare-drum ensemble," Samuel said.
A group of Northwestern Singers known as American Singers will play the part of Yankee Doodle Dandies.
The two fireworks displays "will be bigger and better than ever," she said. A 30-minute display will follow Saturday's Concert in the Park.
"They'll be synchronized to 'Stars and Stripes Forever.' That's been a tradition for 18 years," Samuel said.
Other activities will include Pepsi's Patriot Games, a challenge between KAAL personalities and eight citizens whose names have been drawn from contest boxes throughout the city.
A special food shelf will be set up in Horace Austin Park on Friday to aid the Salvation Army.
For a complete schedule of festival and community events for July 3-6, including the annual Street Dance, military T-6 fly-over and airplane display, see Pages 2 and 3.