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Celebrate America returns to Freeland Park

Marty Parkhurst of TNT Fireworks in Tacoma unloads a truck of fireworks at Ken’s Korner as helpers Greg Smith and Stan Walker of the South Whidbey Kiwanis prepare to stock their fireworks stand. The stand is a major fundraiser for Kiwanis donations to community causes. To learn more, turn to the story on Page A12.   - Brian Kelly
Marty Parkhurst of TNT Fireworks in Tacoma unloads a truck of fireworks at Ken’s Korner as helpers Greg Smith and Stan Walker of the South Whidbey Kiwanis prepare to stock their fireworks stand. The stand is a major fundraiser for Kiwanis donations to community causes. To learn more, turn to the story on Page A12.
— image credit: Brian Kelly

Organizers of the Freeland Park Independence Day celebration are putting a couple of new spins on a South Whidbey tradition.

This year the fireworks show and festivities on July 3 will feature activities ranging from old-favorites to new activities that require the audience to get up and shout.

Well, sing, at least.

One of the new activities planned at this years event is “Whidbey Idol,” an idea inspired by the popular television show “American Idol.”

Last year, an initial “Whidbey Idol” was held for kids. This year, due to popular demand, adults will also get the chance to become the island’s new idol. Sign-ups will start at 2 p.m.

“It’s just something fun, a talent show in some ways,” said event organizer Dustin Jensen.

Anyone and everyone interested in the event is encouraged to enter.

“Audience participation doesn’t work if we don’t have people to participate,” added event organizer Matt Chambers.

Judges will award prizes at the end of the idol show.

The fireworks show, the main feature of the Celebrate America event, will scorch the sky at evening’s end.

A professional firework company will launch about 1,500 shells off a barge in Holmes Harbor near Freeland Park.

“Some of them are 12-inchers, which are pretty big,” Jensen said. “It’s not a backyard fireworks show.”

In past years, the fireworks and accompanying festivities have attracted thousands of people. Spectators should be ready to grab choice viewing spots early.

“It gets packed,” Schwager warned.

One of the favorite Celebrate America festivities has been honoring local veterans. That will continue this year.

“We have a patriotic presentation where we recognize the veterans,” Schwager said. “This year we are doing something a little different, kind of a walk through time.”

If the weather cooperates there will be various audio/visual clips of veterans throughout American history. Veterans will also present the colors and be recognized on stage.

Another popular event back this year is an air show performed by the Blackjacks.

“They are a bunch of guys who have made their own planes, and are previous either commercial or military airplane pilots,” Schwager said.

The flying club, based out of Mount Vernon, has participated at the event for a number of years and will perform acrobatic and coordination maneuvers.

Additional activities for both adults and kids will take place during Celebrate America festivities.

The free event is organized by the South Whidbey Assembly of God, with the help of other churches, and is financed by donations.

“It’s not dependent on ticket sales or donations at the door,” Jensen said. “We really just hope as many people as possible are able to participate in it, to take advantage of it.”

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