Organizers for the Upper Arlington Civic Association's annual Fourth of July celebration and Party in the Park will pay tribute this year to the nation's flag, and will recognize a local teacher who has honored those who fought to defend it.
Although it's not yet Memorial Day, it's never too early to start thinking about Independence Day, according to UACA members.
Already, 2014 UACA Fourth of July chairpersons Kris and Mike Ferraro have hosted a float-builders' workshop to help prospective participants tie in to this year's theme, "YoU Are A Grand Old Flag," and they're planning for the annual painting of stars on Northwest Boulevard to take place June 21.
"My wife and I and the (UACA Fourth of July) committee started brainstorming ideas about the theme back in December 2013," Mike Ferraro said. "In the past few years, we had themes around athletes and music.
"We really wanted to pull it back to the roots of independence. One of the things we really centered on was the flag itself," he said. "It's symbolic of freedom and a lot of women and men defend this country for that freedom."
Bill Richards, a U.S. Navy veteran and retired Upper Arlington teacher, has been named grand marshal of this year's parade.
Richards also is director emeritus of Honor Flight Columbus, which annually flies veterans to Washington, D.C., at no cost so they can visit war memorials and share their stories with younger generations.
"Bill and his wife, Bobbi, launched the Honor Flight in Columbus," Ferraro said. "They've done 60-some flights and over 3,000 veterans here in central Ohio have participated in that flight."
Reached through the UACA, Richards chose to focus on the meaning of the Fourth of July and this year's theme, as opposed to his selection as grand marshal.
"I think the Fourth is a wonderful time each year to re-fall in love with this banner that represents so much about who we are and remembers our past and those who sacrificed so that we can celebrate our freedoms," he said.
As the calendar inches closer to the actual celebration, Ferraro said organizers hope to spur the typical interest that sees scores of Upper Arlington residents converge on the parade route and Northam Park.
But he said they also want to see more participants in this year's parade.
"At the float-builders' workshop, we had about 30 people attend," he said. "One of the big pushes for my wife, Kris, and I is to increase the number of floats in the parade.
"Our expectations are very high that we're going to increase the number of floats. In the '60s and '70s, they probably peaked at 15 to 20, and if we got 10 floats this year we'd be thrilled.
"If folks are interested, all the information is on the UACA website as far as how to build a float. They certainly can reach out to Kris and I to get experts to help."
Additional information about this year's UACA Fourth of July celebration and Party in the Park is available at uaca.org.
The Fourth of July page can be accessed under the website's "Events" link, and information for contacting organizers about parade participation and other Fourth of July festivities can be found there.