By KAREN SARITA INGRAM
Independence Day is three days away and there’s much to celebrate in Idaho Falls.
City spokeswoman Kerry McCullough said the theme for this year’s parade is “Celebrating 150 years of Idaho Falls.”
“My favorite thing (about this holiday) is watching it all come together,” McCullough said. “A lot of teamwork and planning has gone into our local Fourth of July events to make them what they are today. I like watching families and friends gather at the festivities to celebrate not only our freedom, but each other.”
There will be 118 floats in this year’s parade, up slightly from last year’s 115 entries.
The city’s 150th celebration isn’t the only anniversary this year. Tautphaus Park Zoo will have a special float in the parade to commemorate its 80th year.
Melaleuca is getting into the spirit of things by making this year’s fireworks display even bigger than last year’s Melaleuca Freedom Celebration. This is the celebration’s 23rd year. CEO Frank VanderSloot said this year’s fireworks show will feature 17,490 shells — 40 more than in 2014.
“There’s more shells going up than anywhere west of the Mississippi,” VanderSloot said. “It comes to 9.4 shells per second for 31 minutes.”
The fireworks are timed by computer to go off in a precise pattern, synchronized to music broadcast on KLCE “Classy” 97.3 FM. VanderSloot declined to say how much was spent on the show.
“It costs nothing compared to the sacrifices the men and women of the armed services have done,” he said.
The Freedom Celebration is meant as a memorial for America’s veterans, past and present, many whose names have been lost to history, he said. More than a million people have lost their lives defending freedom since the nation’s founding.
“It (the fireworks show) doesn’t seem like much (in that context), does it? Just 31 minutes,” VanderSloot said. “We pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives, and (to) their families.”
VanderSloot said his favorite part about the show is seeing how many people come to celebrate each year.
“Patriotism is alive and well in Idaho Falls,” he said.
The Freedom Celebration includes a banquet to honor veterans, with live music featuring the “Freedom Symphony.”
The Freedom Symphony is composed of musicians from different area orchestras and musical groups, including the Idaho Falls Symphony, Youth Symphony and Rexburg Tabernacle Orchestra. The Freedom Symphony is conducted by Eric Wenstrom, who also conducts the Teton Chamber Orchestra.
“We bring in new music each year,” Wenstrom said. “Last year, we (played) some big band music. This year … some Gershwin and pop tunes.”
But there are a few songs that are always performed, such as the state song, “Here We Have Idaho,” he said. “And we have a guest conductor each year for ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’”
City spokeswoman McCullough said the city was trying to get the word out about safety procedures in the event of an emergency. When a drowning occurred a few years ago, the city’s emergency dispatch center was flooded with phone calls from people asking for updates. That impeded the ability of first responders to react to calls for help in a timely manner.
This year, the city recommends those seeking information check the Idaho Falls Facebook page and Twitter feed for regular updates, rather than trying to call the dispatch center.
In addition, the city issued a news release warning people about “staking-off” public areas for viewing fireworks.
“Staking” may not take place before 6 a.m. Saturday and must be removed no later than midnight. City employees are authorized to remove any items found prior to that time, especially blankets, tarps, tents or other things that could damage lawns, as well as stakes driven into the ground that could damage sprinklers.
“Staking” an area does not guarantee a claim and any items left unattended are at the owner’s risk.
“Just plan ahead, be courteous to others and have patience,” McCullough said.
For information about city activities and parking, go to the city’s website at www.idahofallsidaho.gov and click on “Fourth of July information.” For information about Melaleuca Freedom Celebration events go to tinyurl.com/Melaleuca2015.
The city also needs volunteers to help clean up after the celebration.
Volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. Sunday in Civitan Park on Memorial Drive. Gloves and trash bags will be provided to all volunteers. Anyone with questions about volunteering can call 612-8479.
Memorial Drive, between Broadway and E Street, will be closed to traffic beginning at 6 a.m. Friday. It will reopen Sunday.
No parking is allowed along Riverside Drive, from E Street to U.S. Highway 20, on Saturday. Riverside Drive will be closed to all traffic from 6 p.m. until the fireworks are have concluded and pedestrian traffic has cleared out Saturday. A fire lane will be established for emergency vehicles only.
No parking is permitted around Civitan Park 48 hours prior to the fireworks and after the fireworks. This includes Elva from Riverside to Jefferson Avenue, Jefferson Avenue and I Street from Elva to Temple Place.
Jefferson Avenue and I Street from Elva to Temple Place also will be closed to vehicle traffic from 6 p.m. Saturday until the fireworks have concluded and pedestrian traffic has cleared out.
River Parkway will be closed until Sunday to vehicle traffic north of the Driftwood Hotel to U.S. Highway 20.
No parking will be allowed on U.S. Highway 20 on the grassy areas from Science Center Drive to Saturn Avenue before, during or after the fireworks show Saturday. That includes interstate exits and entrances.
Exits from U.S. Highway 20 onto Lindsay Boulevard, Riverside Drive and Science Center will be closed after 6 p.m. Saturday to help ease traffic congestion. Northbound traffic will have to travel the Lewisville Highway before turning back into Idaho Falls.
The northbound ramp at exit 119 on Interstate 15 also will be closed at the start of the fireworks show. E Street will be limited to eastbound traffic only, both lanes, to provide egress for fireworks related traffic.
The island median on Riverside Drive next to Vissing Circle will be for handicapped parking only.
The intersection at 17th Street and South Boulevard will be interrupted twice Saturday, once for a 5K run and again for the parade.
7:15 a.m.: Idaho Falls FireKracker 5k Fun Run in Tautphaus Park.
9 a.m.: Parade, Fourth St./Boulevard. This year’s theme, “Celebrating 150 Years of Idaho Falls.”
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Artisans Market, corner of Broadway and Memorial
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Tautphaus Park Zoo
Noon: Patriot Bull Run and Tomato Fight, Sandy Downs (New event)
Noon to 10 p.m.: Liberty Festival on the Falls, Memorial Drive
6 p.m.: Chukars baseball game, Melaleuca Field
10 p.m.: Melaleuca Freedom Celebration and Fireworks Display, the greenbelt