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July 4th festivities to blast off Thursday

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
June 30, 2009
— Although the site of this year’s Fourth of July festivities won’t be new, plenty of other highlights will be.

Festivities will be held at the Youth Sports Complex on Wuthering Hills Drive for the second year.


Firsts include the event host and a family youth night without beer. Another highlight will be a much bigger—more than twice the size—carnival than last year.


The local Independent Order of Odd Fellows Wisconsin Lodge 14 and its sister group Janesville Rebekah Lodge No. 14 will host Rock ‘N’ Thunder from July 2-4.


“We’re doing this because our members didn’t want to see it go along the wayside,’’ said Dale Stevenson, noble grand.


The Janesville Jaycees ended its recent struggles to host the event last year, after nearly a quarter of a century as the organizing group.


The Odd Fellows are hoping to create an affordable event for everyone in the community to attend during this troubling economic times, Stevenson said.


Family Youth Night on Thursday will kick off the three-day celebration.


Thursday, July 2

Gates open at 6 p.m. and close at 10 p.m. The beer tent will be closed.


This night is oriented toward young families. Local youth organizations will be featured, with demonstrations by some groups, including 4-H, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, youth basketball, Karate America and Black Bridge Bowl. It will be wrist band day, when discounts will be given to the carnival, said Cathy Comstock, event co-chair with Barry Golden.


“We’re trying to put together a program for the kids to know there are other things to do besides sit around the computer and text message all day long and give parents an opportunity to get kids out of the house,”’ Golden said.


Also featured will be Kid Moore DJ, including some karaoke and Elvis tribute artist Shawn Sharp.


Friday, July 3

Gates open at 5 p.m. and close at 10 p.m.


This day’s activities will open with Nothing But Trouble, who play classic rock from the 1950s-70s plus outlaw country Southern rock until 7 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., Band Bop Ritual will entertain the crowd with jazz and blues numbers until 9:30 p.m.


“There’s a lot of different bands, with something for everybody,’’ Comstock said.


Saturday, July 4

Gates open at 2:30 p.m. and close at 11 p.m.


Music resumes at 3 p.m. Saturday when the country band Cherokee takes the stage. Those who prefer a mix of classic country and rock hits will want to stick around to hear Stoned Pony perform from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. And those who want to listen to some rock-a-billy, including original pieces, shouldn’t miss Scrap Yard Daddy from 8 to 10:30 p.m.


Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Rock River Chapter 236 will post the colors just before the fireworks begin at dusk.


Food options will abound. While Janesville firefighters cook brats and hotdogs, the Niedermeier food trailer will sell sno-cones, popcorn, cotton candy, nachos, sliced apples with caramel, slushes and cold cheese sandwiches. The Odd Fellows will serve up pulled pork sandwiches. Other choices includes Gray’s root beer and root beer floats, Cold Stone Creamery ice cream, Elmer Scott’s kettle corn, Youth Sports Complex concession stand food and snacks plus carnival food, such as funnel cakes and Pepsi products.


Miller and Bud products will be sold in the beer tent. The $1 admission fee to the beer garden will be waived for those who donate supplies for the Rock County Humane Society.


Hosts seek community’s financial support

Although $10,000 less will be spent on this year’s fireworks, viewers still should get ready to ooh and ahh.


Longtime local pyrotechnician Joel Thorn has worked his magic and figured out a way to give Fourth of July enthusiasts a show as good as any other.


“The quality of the show will still be comparable to years past,’’ said Dale Stevenson, noble grand of the Odd Fellows, this year’s event host.


The Green Bay company that supplies the shells for the fireworks gave additional discounts so Thorn wouldn’t lose a big number of shells, he said.


In the past, the Janesville Jaycees typically spent $30,000 on fireworks. Realizing that kind of money would be tough to raise in five months and with the current sluggish economy, the Odd Fellows agreed to scale back the fireworks to a $20,000 display.


Although all of the shells for the show are here, the hosts have paid for only one-quarter of them.


The Odd Fellows intend to pay the balance through donations. The group set up a fund at Anchor Bank’s two Janesville locations, and it has set up collection canisters and donations placards at businesses throughout the city. A hat also will be passed among the crowd by event hosts and sponsors wearing Rock ‘N’ Thunder T-shirts all three days, organizers said.


The Odd Fellows also are expecting donations to come in between now and the fireworks.


“We’d love to see local businesses that have made good and managed to survive on the local economy and the local community over the years step up and help out,” Stevenson said.


“A lot of people are under the impression that the city of Janesville has something to do with putting money into it, and it doesn’t. The city helps supply what it can—police, firefighters and parks stuff—to help the event happen. But financially they don’t have anything to do with funds toward the fireworks,” he said.


Cathy Comstock, event co-chair, said that if every person in Janesville gave $1 toward the celebration, “we would have the most awesome Fourth of July celebration ever.’’


Former Jaycees, Comstock and co-chairman Barry Golden agreed the Odd Fellows already are struggling financially, as the Jaycees did. But simply put, they don’t want to see the holiday celebration go away.


“Hopefully people will understand we’re trying very hard to keep this here. If the community still wants fireworks, they need to help,’’ Comstock said.


“Obviously if this goes off well and we’re able to survive this year, that’s going to give us a full year to bring it back for next year when we’ll be able to make use of our resources,’’ Stevenson said.


Still Comstock warned: “If the community doesn’t come out and support us, it will not happen next year.’’


“It could go the same way as the Jaycees,” Stevenson said, “and it could be gone.’’



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