The Upper Arlington Civic Association is ready for the annual July 4 celebration and Party in the Park after spending a hot Saturday morning painting stars and Golden Bears on Northwest Boulevard.

Aided by a traffic-safety escort from the Upper Arlington Police Division, crews toting metal star stencils and red, white and blue paint made their way down the street June 16. It's an annual tradition headed by UACA directors who organize the celebrations, aided by junior directors who are still in high school.

Marking the July 4 parade route is one of the final tasks before what is probably Upper Arlington's signature event each year.

"It's definitely time to start putting your chairs out," said Angie Theaker. She and her husband, Brent, are the UACA's general chairs for the 2018 July Fourth Committee.

Theaker was referring to another community tradition surrounding Upper Arlington's July 4 festivities: people who stake claims to parade route viewing spots by lining Northwest Boulevard with lawn chairs.

While some are more zealous about designating their parade perches, Theaker noted that once the parade route stars are painted, lining Northwest Boulevard with chairs typically follows in short order.

As for the star-painting process, it's something the respective Red, White and Blue crews take fairly seriously.

They stay on each other about the proper pace for painting fresh stars all the way from Fishinger Road to North Star Road.

Things also can get slightly chippy if one crew begins to lag, slowing up any behind them, or if a lead crew puts its paint down on stars earmarked for a different color.

"It's a lot of fun," Theaker said. "We have probably about 30 volunteers out there."

She noted that this year, Jon Edwards, owner of Jon Edwards Steel Co., donated all of the metal stencils for the star painting. He also donated stencils for Golden Bears to be painted at spots along the parade route that will honor the city's centennial year and designate areas where parade participants can put on dances or other performances.

"We are adding a couple of bear-shaped forms," Theaker said. "We're going to do performance zones this year. There will be six zones and they're going to be marked by those bears. We're asking people to perform within the performance zones."

Steve Blunk, president of the UACA board of directors, said 2018 is the 95th year the group has organized Upper Arlington's July 4 parade.

He said the star-painting tradition is one that's enjoyable and strengthens bonds among UACA members who work together and get a firsthand look at the excitement among residents who come out to watch the work, request that stars be painted in their driveways or who pull up their chairs along the parade route.

"It's like a sports team; it takes a little bit to gel," Blunk said. "We're out, we're having fun. It's been a part of our community for a really long time. Everyone comes to expect it."

Pete Walsh, the 2013 board of directors president, said the star-painting tradition began in 1976 as a way to recognize the nation's bicentennial.

He called it a "whimsical representation of the spirit of UA's Fourth of July celebration," but added that the lasting image of the stars on the roadway carry on sentiments of national and community pride throughout the year.

"It also serves as a year-round reminder that, on the Fourth of July in UA, you are expected to arise, put out your flag and join the celebration," Walsh said.

Still, Walsh noted there are more lighthearted aspects of the tradition.

"We try to act like grown-ups about it -- there is even a police briefing -- but star-painting slowly devolves into a paint-your-fellow-director event," he said. "It is incredible fun and an honor to participate in."

Look for details about UACA July 4 Celebration and Party in the Park festivities in the June 28 edition of ThisWeek Upper Arlington News.

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