By Colleen Lehmann
Strike up the band, light the sparklers, and pull our your red-white-and-blue wardrobe … the Fourth of July holiday is fast approaching and the City of Tuscola will once again host Sparks in the Park on Sat., July 5, 2014.
Ervin Park will be the primary site for most activities, and organizers are excited about the lineup of events for the day—old favorites and some new additions as well. And helping out Tuscola city staffers Alta Long and Anna Marx with Sparks in the Park festival planning are volunteer coordinators Drew and Ashleigh Sterkel.
“We were looking to get some new, fresh helpers involved with the festival, and the Sterkels—both of whom teach in the school district—came to mind. They know a lot of people are great folks, and were gracious enough to accept our request for help,” said Long.
Added Marx, “Drew and Ashleigh have been great to work with. They have helped out with nailing down the schedule of events and will be around on the July 5 to help the event run smoothly. They are very excited to be a part of the festival and their help is very much appreciated.”
The Illinois Army National Guard’s 144th Army Band will make a first-time appearance on the main stage at the north end of the park at 11 a.m. Stationed at Camp Lincoln in Springfield, the band boasts some of the area’s finest professional and amateur musicians, who meet one weekend a month for rehearsals and performances, and spend an additional 15 days a year supporting military and civilian events.
Says Tuscola marking assistant Anna Marx, “I am very excited about the National Guard Band performance. They will be recognizing all local veterans and members currently serving. We hope to have many veterans come out and enjoy the upbeat and uplifting patriotic music performed by those currently serving.”
But the 144th Army Band isn’t the only game in town when it comes to skill sets. It’s all about homegrown when the Tuscola’s Got Talent show plays out on the main stage at 12:30 p.m., emceed by Wes Wheeler.
Organizer Maurine Flenniken noted, “Tuscola’s Got Talent is open to anyone, from age 1-100. We want any kind of talent–singing, dancing, magic, comedy, and drama, just to name a few. If you can juggle or do a trick, we want you. I know Tuscola has the skills to put on an awesome show; we just need them to sign up! And if you don’t have the talent, please come out and enjoy the show on the main stage.”
City Treasurer Alta Long noted the idea for a talent show—not contest, just a show—was the result of “seeing clips from talent shows at East Prairie and Tuscola High School. We were blown away by how much talent there was at that level, and figured that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so we’re hoping those folks and many others come out, sign up, and show us what they’ve got!”
Marx noted a “strong man act” featuring feats of strength by Tolono resident John Beatty is another new addition to this year’s schedule of events. Beatty is the only strongman to make through the preliminary rounds and become a finalist on “America’s Got Talent” television show. He was a professional strongman for 10 years, and a strength competitor for over 20 years.
“You can find some of his ‘acts’ on YouTube; he does some really cool stuff,” said Marx. Beatty will be muscling his way on the main stage at 2:30 p.m., and he will be followed by Andrew’s Show of Wonder magic act at 3:30 p.m. Andrew is a popular draw at many events, large and small, because of his amazing sleights of hand and other unique talents.
Music acts will rule the stage the rest of the evening, including the Bob Crossman Band at 6:30 p.m., and Albert Flasher Band at 8 p.m. Once dusk falls, fireworks courtesy of Jamaica Pyrotechnics become the star of the show. Marx also stressed that, once the fireworks are finished, both of the roads in the park can be used to leave—at that time only. Volunteers will be in place to help direct the traffic.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 18, 2014 edition