It’s once again that time of year as Blanding gears up for it’s annual Fourth of July celebration. Thousands are expected to converge for a day of patriotic celebration that will stretch a few days in both directions.
The Independence Day parade, under the theme of Forever Free, makes its way down Main Street beginning at 10:30 a.m. Grand marshals for the parade include Samuel Holiday, one of the few remaining Navajo Codetalkers. Holiday, a native of Monument Valley, was recruited by the Marine Corps in World War II and found himself in the thick of the battle on Iwo Jima in 1945.
The Navajo Codetalkers, using Navajo words over the radio system, were instrumental in the victory at Iwo Jima and across the Pacific. Holiday is one of the few remaining Codetalkers. He will be honored nearly 70 years after the war ended.
The other Grand marshals are Steve and Adele Lovell. They have been involved in the education and development of Blanding-area youth for decades. Steve Lovell is a retired educator and still hasn’t fully retired from a lifetime of involvement in the Boy Scout programs.
Other highlights of the parade will include a host of floats and other entries, including the third annual Jason Workman Memorial Ride. Dozens of motorcycles crowd the parade route in honor of Workman, a Blanding native who was a member of Seal Team Six. He was killed in action in Afghanistan in August, 2011.
One recognizable local favorite in the parade is “The Gadianton Band” which will change its name to “Band of the Free” this year. The “Band of the Free” is easily recognized, as it looks like a float straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. The truck carries an entire band and is adorned with all sorts of decorations. The “Band of the Free” is hard to miss.
The parade, which will have at least 60 entries, is just one of the highlights of the annual Independence Day celebration.
The celebration kicks off Friday evening with the annual Shane Warenski Memorial Midnight Madness softball tournament. The softball tournament starts at 5:30 p.m. and continues play throughout the entire night.
Things begin early on Friday, July 4 with a 5K race beginning at Centennial Park.
The annual Mayors Breakfast begins soon afterward and will feature a speech by Paul Mantz.
The fun continues with co-ed volleyball, horseshoes, and 7-on-7 football tournaments throughout the afternoon.
Food booths and other vendors will offer their services as well throughout the day, primarily from Centennial Park and in the Blanding Wellness Center.
Quilts and arts and crafts are available at the Blanding Wellness Center, including the chance to get a poster featuring the community photo from the 2013 celebration.
This celebration will be great fun for the younger crowd. The San Juan Chamber of Commerce will sponsor kids games at noon. There will also be “diving for dollars” at the Blanding Wellness Center, followed by a free swim.
The evening will include a concert from the band “Famous Unkown” who will play from 7 until 10 p.m.
The fireworks show at 10 p.m. is always a highlight and a great finale of the Fourth of July Celebration.
Other events continue throughout the weekend, including a concert by the Elk Ridge Boys at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 5 at the San Juan High School auditorium.
The Edge of the Seaters Theatre Company goes back 30 years to honor the initial players who created the Little Theatre Company That Could.
They will present their original melodrama play from 1984, “Perils of Priscilla, or Tillie the Bank Teller” in performances on July 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Blanding Arts and Events Center.