Originally Published: June 19, 2014 6 a.m.
The holiday: Independence Day. The destination: Prescott.
Thanks, in part, to a contest that an area woman entered and won, festivities at the City of Prescott's annual July 4 are slated to be "over-the-top" this year.
Adding to the city's traditional Pioneer Park fare, this year's July 4 celebration will draw extra energy from Destination America, a part of the Discovery Channel's family of networks.
On top of the usual fireworks, games, crafts, and music, the Prescott Celebration 2014 will feature a nationally known musical group, free Hillshire Farm hotdogs, an appearance by the Deep Fried Masters television show, and a ramped-up fireworks show.
Destination America announced recently that Prescott was one of two communities in the U.S. to win the USA Weekend's second annual Red, White and You contest.
Launched in March, the contest asked people from across the country to prove why their communities were most deserving of an "over-the-top Independence Day party."
Hanna Axley from Skull Valley entered the contest, appealing to Destination America to give Prescott "a party that won't be forgotten."
Her entry stated: "Last July we all came together to mourn the loss of 19 young firefighters, and to have this July be a celebration is just what this town needs, and the families of those men lost deserve."
Destination America agreed, and chose Prescott, along with Hamtramck, Mich., a city that reportedly has been hit by hard times, and has not had a July 4 celebration in more than 30 years.
"We are honored to celebrate our nation's birthday with these two very worthy communities," Marc Etkind, general manager for Destination America, said in a news release.
The local event will commemorate the "heroic firefighters of Prescott," the release added, referring to the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died on June 30 fighting the Yarnell Hill wildfire.
Prescott Special Events Manager Becky Karcie said organizers are expecting a crowd that easily could eclipse the 8,000 to 10,000 who annually flock to Pioneer Park for the traditional celebration.
The Destination America presence, along with the fact that July 4 falls on a Friday this year, could significantly pump things up, Karcie said.
"We are so excited to be working with Destination America to create a community-friendly celebration beyond any we have had in the past," Karcie said. "Prescott has always been a very patriotic town, and this award will allow us to unite that patriotism with our strong community spirit through a Fourth of July celebration that will bring families together to relax, rejuvenate, and remember."
The event will kick off at noon, July 4, and will run through about 10 p.m.
The fireworks show is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m., and Karcie said residents should expect something special this year. She noted that Destination America would add about $7,500 to the city's usual fireworks budget of $18,000. The additional money will add significantly to the size and number of shells.
"It will be a wider show, and (the fireworks) will be fuller and brighter," Karcie said "It will be like a grand finale throughout the whole show."
Each year as the holiday approaches, questions inevitably arise about fire danger, but the fireworks display has usually gone forward, with plenty of precautions.
"In the past, we've always had a contingency plan, regardless of the weather conditions," said Wade Ward of the Prescott Fire Department. Decisions on the city's fireworks display are made in the fire marshal's office, he added, and could change on a moment's notice.
Culminating the day will be a performance by a well-known musical act. Karcie said this week that the details have yet to be finalized, and she expects to make an announcement by the end of this week.
Prior to the fireworks, the celebration will include an all-day carnival, including zip-lining, water slides, bungee trampoline jumping, climbing walls, carnival games, pony rides, electric slides, crafts, and train rides.
Admission to the event will be free, although those participating in the carnival will need a wristband ($12 in advance, and $15 at the gate). Advance tickets are available at the City of Prescott, Grace Sparkes Activity Center, Freedom Station Prescott Valley, and all Fry's Markets.
A free shuttle will be available at the nearby Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Drivers should take Willow Creek Road to Hass Drive. The shuttles have space for coolers, strollers, and shade canopies. Pets are not allowed.
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