June 29--Lubbock's 4th on Broadway celebration continues to rank as the state's largest free Independence Day festival, according to Stephanie Nairn, who will oversee her sixth 4th on Broadway this year as executive director of Broadway Festivals, Inc.
She pointed out it becomes "harder every year for a nonprofit (Broadway Festivals) to keep this a free activity."
The cost of staging 4th on Broadway, said Nairn, is "more than a half-million dollars, including in-kind contributions."
Nairn is the only paid staff member working on 4th on Broadway. She is assisted by two interns from Texas Tech and approximately 250 volunteers. "And we'd have plenty for them to do if more people want to volunteer," she said.
The event was greeted by torrential rain for the first time in 2010. The fireworks show had to be canceled, and Nairn said, "We are still trying to recover from that rain-out. We lost a lot of income from lost (soft drink) sales and ticket sales (for the street dance).
"We had to move and adjust a lot of things just to keep 4th on Broadway alive."
The most noticeable loss is the huge outdoor concert that, since 4th on Broadway began in 1991, always had preceded the closing fireworks.
There was no way to save it.
Don Caldwell, who has overseen music bookings at each 4th on Broadway, still misses that big event. "We took a lot of pride in presenting an ultimate showcase for our performers, and making it better every year.
"There were so many of those concerts that I felt were really outstanding. If I had to pick the one I loved the most, it would be our 2008 concert that featured both Mac Davis and Richie McDonald."
Nairn did not have cost figures handy for those evening concerts. She said, "Of course we hated to lose the big evening concert, but just the staging and (equipment) rentals cost us more than $40,000 each year. That was just the start."
The only way the popular concert could ever return is if an underwriter volunteered to pay its entire cost.
Within a two-year period, 4th on Broadway appeared snake-bitten.
In 2010, rain forced the cancellation of the fireworks show. During the following year, West Texas suffered from severe drought, and the fear of fires found the fireworks extravaganza again canceled at 2011's 4th on Broadway.
"Thank goodness we have very strong sponsors, who have remained loyal to us," Nairn said.
The fireworks and a large turnout returned last year.
Somewhat ironically, attendance at Lubbock's annual 4th on Broadway celebration is substantially higher when July 4 does not fall on a weekend, said Nairn. "There always are more people attending when they know they have to be back at work the next day.
"It will be interesting to see what happens next year, when the Fourth falls on a Friday and everyone has a three-day weekend."
This year's 23rd annual 4th on Broadway will include a pair of downtown street dances, with Grupo Siggno headlining a Tejano show on Wednesday, July 3, and the Josh Abbott Band headlining a country dance on Thursday, July 4.
The annual 4th of July activities are expected to again attract "around 75,000 people, of course depending on the weather," said Nairn.
She was referring to the day's opening parade west on Broadway from Avenue Q to University Avenue, followed by a street fair along Broadway that also finds seven covered stages providing continual, varied music. Final activities are at Mackenzie State Park: a Picnic in the Park that precedes a brief concert by Youth Orchestra of Lubbock, an ensemble that also provides 20 minutes of choreographed music for the closing "fireworks extravaganza."
Parade, 9 to 11 a.m.
Expect more than 100 entries in this year's parade, including approximately 104 high school musicians and more animals than have been seen in past years.
Suzanne Comer, overseeing the Independence Day parade for a seventh year, said, "That's what it looks like to me. We'll have the usual horses, but also more groups with dogs and another organization bringing a camel, zebra and llamas."
This year's July 4 band is comprised of musicians from Lubbock's high school bands.
The theme of the entire event, including the parade, is Imagine Lubbock.
Comer said entrants have been asked to spend more time decorating their entries, and to follow rules prohibiting anyone on cars or floats from throwing candy or other objects to the crowd lining the street.
If an organization wants to give anything away, it must have "walkers" who physically hand giveaways to observers. The fear is that children could carelessly run into the street to find candy.
There is no grand marshal in Thursday's parade.
However, a major change this year is the decision to pre-judge parade entries.
Comer said in past years, it might take several days for winners to be notified. This year, entries will be judged after they are lined up, but before the parade begins.
Each winner will be given a banner for display, Comer added, so those watching the parade also can see who won.
There are non-commercial and commercial entries. Those winning first, second and third place in the non-commercial category are given cash prizes of $500, $250 and $125, respectively.
Those winning first, second and third place in the commercial category win tickets to Thursday's street dance: 10 for first place (a $180 value), six for second, and four for third.
Each year's float named Best of Show wins a traveling trophy.
On Thursday, Southcrest Baptist Church will return the trophy it won as 2012's Best of Show; furthermore, the church's entry will be situated near the beginning of this year's parade.
Rules and entry fees for participants, along with applications, can be found on the Broadway Festivals' website, said Nairn.
While the parade is slated to start at 9 a.m., breakfast vendors can open at 8 a.m. for those arriving early. "Some might even open earlier," noted Nairn. "It just depends on what time they get approved."
Street Fair, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
While there are at least 50 vendors selling food, non-alcoholic drinks and commercial items along Broadway, the main attractions at the street fair are the multiple stages at which live music is provided on a continual basis.
Nairn and Caldwell said changes in categories were made this year. Caldwell pointed out, "We're excited to offer the many musical styles that might be heard in West Texas on any given day, all in one big bundle. For some folks, it will be hard to decide which stage to visit because the lineup of performers is incredible.
"One of the new offerings is a Singer-Songwriter Stage, which features a dozen top-notch entertainers."
He said he has heard no negative comments about "the reorganization" because all genres are featured.
Caldwell explained why he finds it important for music to be featured each July 4: "4th on Broadway was established in 1991 primarily to showcase the region's outstanding talent. Broadway Festivals agreed from the beginning that musicians performing at the event would be paid. I think properly honoring and showcasing the musicians of the region, and their contribution to the quality of life in our area, has been a catalyst for keeping this event alive for 22 years."
The special area for children's activities will open in the east parking lot of First Baptist Church, 2201 Broadway.
Nairn said sponsor AG Junction, a group of nine agriculture-related businesses, added a group of agriculture-related activities.
So there will still be hoppers, a spider wall, a rock wall, face-painting, and arts and crafts. But in addition, look for a Planet Agriculture traveling exhibit, a mini-gin, several giveaways called "ag in a bag" and, added Nairn, a "dairy demonstration including a wooden cow that kids can milk."
There will also be a dunk tank, carnival games and stick horse races.
Trick roper Brice Chapman, a national champion, will perform shows with his trained horse and dog four times during the street fair.
"This is the most we've ever been able to offer for children at 4th on Broadway," Nairn said.
Where to Park
The thousands who continue to enjoy 4th on Broadway at Mackenzie State Park have three choices when it comes to parking.
The parking lot at the Panhandle-South Plains Fairgrounds can be used at the rate of $5 per vehicle. Buses will transport visitors down the hill to the Broadway entrance to Mackenzie Park, and also will take guests back to the parking lot after the fireworks show.
Nairn said that a second option is to pay $5 to park "on the grassy lot west of the American Wind Power Center and Museum, 1701 Canyon Lake Drive."
The museum is home to 150 restored windmills. Again, buses will be used to take visitors to the Broadway entrance to Mackenzie Park, and will return guests after the fireworks.
This year, guests also can pay $10 for "premium parking" in a parking lot across the street from the Broadway entrance to Mackenzie Park. Premium parking is first come and first served until the lot is filled.
Food Court and Picnic in the Park, 4:30 to 10 p.m.
The Lubbock economy also is helped, said Nairn, by the large number of people who travel to Lubbock from as far away as Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico to enjoy the day-long, free community event.
Weather also affects the number who travel, she said.
Current forecasts, said Nairn, are for a clear day with a high temperature of 90 degrees on July 4, "which promises to be a beautiful day, and not too hot."
Families generally begin arriving throughout the day at the park. They can bring their own picnic dinners, or purchase dinners from 13 food vendors who have confirmed they will be open from 4:30 to 10 p.m.
According to Nairn, the food items vendors plan to sell include "pizza, brisket wrap, turkey legs, Frito pie, corn dogs, potato ribbons, corn on the cob, fried pickles, kettle corn, funnel cake, homemade ice cream and banana pudding."
Concert, Mackenzie State Park
Youth Orchestra of Lubbock is the evening concert headliner. But the 7:30 p.m. starting time allows the show to also feature openers Joe Gillas, Texas 114, West Garza, Alissa Beyer & Ryan Garza, Mary Fletcher, Jeff Bailey and students from Terri Caldwell Music.
Youth Orchestra general manager Emily Brannon said the ensemble, conducted by Bruce Wood, does not expect to begin playing until 9:45 p.m.
It will open with "God Bless the USA," accompanied by singer Jeff Bailey, and the theme from "Star Wars."
At approximately 10 p.m., Robbie Edwards and Don Summersgill will assist to cue fireworks set off by Western Enterprises.
That way, the fireworks show can be choreographed to the Youth Orchestra of Lubbock performing "Stars and Stripes Forever," "Washington Post March," "Deep in the Heart of Texas," "America the Beautiful" and "1812 Overture."
Fireworks, Mackenzie State Park
James Burnett, owner of Western Enterprises, emailed, "Pyrotechnic performances that are fired to a 'live band or orchestra' are very difficult. The pyrotechnic choreographer must 'read sheet music scores' of the music that will be played during the performance. The choreographer must place 'firing command cues' on the sheet music. These cues must be verbally called live to the fireworks technicians at the appropriate time, who then fire the fireworks accordingly.
"In any pyrotechnic performance that is fired to music, it is best for the audience to position themselves where they can 'hear the music' while the fireworks are being fired with the music. The fireworks will interpret the 'style of music' that is being played."
Asked what Thursday's audience can expect to see, Burnett said, "The fireworks that will be witnessed in the Lubbock performance will showcase a wide variety of pyrotechnic products from around the world, including a breath-taking array of specially made aerial shells that we have used in several international fireworks competitions.
"Some of the newly designed aerial shells that we will showcase in Lubbock are Long-Burning Crackling Coconut Shells, Pastel-color Crossette Shells, Golden Silk Jeweled Brocades, Silver Kimuro Crowns and special animated shells that dance across the sky."
He concluded that the producers of 4th on Broadway have every right to describe the closing fireworks as an "extravaganza."
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