While all of the July Fourth events around Columbus recognize patriotism, the theme for this year's Westerville Fourth of July Parade will be especially close to home for families of active-duty service members.

Every year, the Rotary Club of Westerville has elementary school students in town submit ideas for the theme of the parade. Often the themes are fairly broad, patriotic topics, similar to last year's theme of "Fireworks, Friends and Freedom."

But this year, McVay Elementary School student Riley Jacopin went with more specific inspiration.

Riley's father, U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Shane Jacopin, is on active duty, stationed at Camp Pendleton in California.

Inspired by her father, Riley submitted the theme, "Home of the Free, Because of the Brave," and it resonated with the Rotary judges.

"With all the turmoil around the world, we thought, 'Home of the Free, Because of the Brave' was a great symbol," said Marc Arnold, a committee member in charge of the theme contest.

At the Rotary Club's June 8 meeting, Riley was honored for her idea. To make the occasion even more special, her father flew in from California to attend.

Arnold said the reunion added to the group's satisfaction of awarding the annual $100 check to the winner.

"I think the ability for him to get home and make it for that is pretty unique," Arnold said. "(Jacopin) also wants to be a military police officer, so he's applied to the Westerville police department as well."

For Arnold and other Rotary members, the theme contest is a microcosm of the yearly Fourth of July preparations.

"I think it's probably the best time of year and the best way to get the entire community together and rallied around a cause to celebrate and have some good fellowship," Arnold said.

To celebrate the holiday, the Rotary Club has a full schedule of events planned for Tuesday, July 4.

* 5K Run/Walk: 8 a.m.

The annual run/walk kicks off the Fourth of July celebration at 8 a.m. with registration starting at 6:30 a.m. at Alum Creek Park North.

Following the race, the children's fun run begins at 9:15 a.m.

* Fourth of July Parade: 1 p.m.

The parade begins at the intersection of North State Street and Old County Line Road at 1 p.m. The procession heads south on State Street to Electric Avenue, where it turns east and finishes at Westerville South High School.

Ohio State University football legend Archie Griffin will serve as the parade's grand marshal.

* Live music: 2:30 p.m.

Beginning at 2:30 p.m. in the field west of the high school, four different live acts will play, with DJ performances between acts.

A variety of food vendors also will be on hand serving dinner and dessert between 2 and 9:45 p.m.

* Fireworks: 10 p.m.

The main attraction begins at 10 p.m., with the Rotary Club's annual fireworks display.

Those on the high school lawn should bring chairs or blankets, and radio station 104.9 The River will be simulcasting the show.

In the event of rain, the reschedule date for the display is Wednesday, July 5, at 10 p.m.

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