The annual traditions that go along with Upper Arlington's signature celebration will all return Wednesday, July 4, with a few additions and a nod to the community's 100th birthday.

Since 1933, one year after the organization was formed and 10 years after a local parade was started, the Upper Arlington Civic Association has headed the celebration in Upper Arlington.

During that time, organizers built on traditions such as the annual parade and have implemented festivities, such as boisterous wake-up calls at designated houses, that at least most of the community -- although maybe not the wake-up recipients -- have come to treasure.

This year's UACA July 4 celebration and Party in the Park will feature all those time-honored practices, and with a theme of "A Cherished Past, A Golden Future," it also will pay tribute to the community's heritage and its centennial.

"We have the best Fourth of July celebration in the country," said Angie Theaker. She and her husband, Brent, are the UACA general chairmen in charge of the 2018 July 4 festivities.

"The parade has been running in UA for 95 years (and) Upper Arlington High School alumni come home from all over the world for the Fourth," she said. "The amount of community work that goes into the parade is something to see. The neighborhood floats and performances are amazing. There are block parties all over the city.

"I can't think of any better place to be than Upper Arlington on the Fourth of July."

The daylong celebration begins at 7 a.m., when UACA volunteers pay homage to Paul Revere's famous ride and cruise the city with bullhorns to deliver customized wake-up calls to residents whose "friends" or family requested them.

July 4 parade

From there, the action moves to the corner of Northwest Boulevard and Zollinger Road for the annual Independence Day parade at 9 a.m. It will include a multitude of organization and neighborhood floats, as well as a variety of marchers and performers.

The parade will be presided over by this year's grand marshals, all former UACA July 4 chairmen who are being honored for the work they did to continue and build the tradition by organizing past parades, judging floats and overseeing the Party in the Park and fireworks display.

"This group has given countless volunteer hours to the Upper Arlington Civic Association, organizing our community's most cherished event: the celebration of the Fourth of July," Theaker said. "We expect over 60 former general chairpersons to participate in the parade as part of the grand marshal entry.

"It will certainly be grand."

Theaker said one of her favorite aspects of the parade is that the military division, represented by veterans from every U.S. branch, kicks it off. She added there will be 10 neighborhood floats, local dance companies, marching bands and contingents of local youth sports teams among the procession.

New this year is the expansion of float awards from 10 to 13, including the Golden Bear Award for the float that shows the most UA spirit.

The UACA also is introducing the UA Cup, a trophy representing the Best of the Parade, that will be passed down each year from the previous winner to the new recipients.

Spectators also can vote online for the People's Choice Award recipient during the afternoon of July 4 at facebook.com/UACAorg.

Party in the Park

Theaker noted that Party in the Park opens at 5:30 p.m., with the Conspiracy Band taking the stage at 6 p.m. She encouraged people to arrive early.

"Because it's truly going to be the 'party of the century,' please get there early and enjoy all the new and special elements we've added this year to celebrate," she said.

Throughout the Party in the Park, food and drink will be available from a variety of vendors. Visitors also can pre-order from City Barbecue and pick up their orders at the park. Pre-orders can be made online only at www.squareup.com/store/citybbq.

Visitors also can bring their own refreshments, but alcohol is prohibited.

The Party in the Park schedule includes:

* 7:15 p.m. -- Upper Arlington Schools vocal chorus performance, featuring a choir from UA elementary schools and the UAHS Vocal Chorale Ensemble.

* 7:30 p.m. -- parade award-winners announced.

* 8 p.m. -- The Conspiracy Band returns to the stage.

* 10 p.m. -- national anthem and fireworks (as weather permits). The national anthem will be performed by Jimmy Contakis, a recent UAHS graduate and former UACA Junior Director.

* 10:30 p.m. -- The Conspiracy Band encore after the fireworks have ended for a final 30-minute set.

* 11 p.m. -- event ends.

Projects unveiled

Among the new festivities at the Party in the Park will be a 7 p.m. ceremony by the community's volunteer Centennial Commission, which will unveil a new History Walk and sculptured bronze bears by artist Alana Hamwi.

Upper Arlington Community Affairs Director Emma Speight said the UACA has welcomed the opportunity to blend the centennial celebration into its annual July 4 event, including centennial Golden Bear stencils that were painted along the parade route along with traditional red, white and blue stars.

"We are looking forward to unveiling the Centennial Legacy Project during the break between performers," Speight said. "With large screens at the stage area, it's going to be possible for residents to watch the unveiling from their place in the park or they can also join us at the site of the Centennial Plaza and History Walk."

Hamwi and local dignitaries will be on hand for the unveiling, and Speight noted all 10 markers in the History Walk have been sponsored by local families and groups.

The History Walk and sculpture will be permanently located in Centennial Plaza next to the drop-off area into the park beside Tremont Pool.

"The primary feature is the sculpture, comprised of three bronze sculptures of an adult bear and two cubs, which are surrounded by a rubberized play surface since they are designed for interaction by children," Speight said. "The sculptures are surrounded by tables, chairs and benches for seating, within a large trellis with stone pillars providing a welcoming gathering space for people as they enter or leave the park.

"The Legacy Project is the cornerstone project of the Centennial Task Force. It took many months of planning, community engagement, fundraising and detailed design work to come to fruition," Speight said.

"All on the task force look forward to being part of Upper Arlington's July Fourth celebrations and the opportunity to gift this lasting legacy to the community for all to enjoy in the years ahead."

Brent Theaker said he's looking forward to a monumental celebration.

"Angie and I didn't grow up in UA," he said. "We moved here just before we had our first child 12 years ago. We fell in love with the community during our first parade in 2007. We'd never seen anything like it in the Dayton and Mansfield areas where we grew up.

"We knew we had found the perfect place to raise our family. We now have three kids, ages 11, 9 and 7 and we haven't missed a single Fourth of July since we moved here and hope we never have to."

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