Ready to blast off

Little Miss and Mister Sesquicentennial and friends ride in an American eagle float during the 2019 Firecracker Parade in Corunna.

CORUNNA — The Independence Day festivities residents have come to enjoy for three decades in Corunna are returning this year.

The 31st annual Fourth of July Celebration is moving full-speed ahead with a familiar slate of offerings, including the pancake breakfast, Firecracker Parade and a wide variety of entertainment for children and adults in McCurdy Park.

“The nice thing about coming back has been there is absolutely, no question, a desire by people that just want to do something,” said Merilee Lawson, treasurer of the Fourth of July Commission. “I have a feeling that we’re going to get slammed with a fair amount of people because people want out.”

Bringing back the annual celebration has been a challenge, however. Difficulties in attracting volunteers and a lack of sponsors has made it tough to maintain the diverse array of offerings, not to mention additional challenges in booking entertainment.

“We have struggled so hard because a good share of the bands that we use have disbanded, they’re not around,” commission President Angie Fernette said.

Nonetheless, organizers have maintained the lion’s share of the schedule, only removing a handful of things — a euchre tournament, children’s face painting and watermelon seed spitting — due to COVID-19.

Just about everything at the celebration is free: Exceptions include food vendors, miniature golf and the 5K run/walk.

“You can’t beat it,” Lawson said. “If you go to any of the carnivals anymore and take your children, you’re, for the most part, spending $15 to $25 for a wristband. We still manage, because of our sponsors, to keep this event free.”

Festivities include the annual car show, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in McCurdy park; the Firecracker Parade, which starts at 11 a.m. in downtown Corunna; the pancake breakfast, from 7 to 10:30 a.m. in the park; and the Tractor Sit & Show, from noon to 4 p.m. in the park.

A bicycle decorating contest will be held at 9:30 a.m. Children’s rides, games and inflatables will open at noon.

Belt sander racing kicks off with registration at noon, followed by racing at 1 p.m. at the grandstand. Live music also begins at 1 p.m. in the park, and continues until dusk.

Juggler Tim Salisbury will entertain guests with two shows, from 1 to 2 p.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. in the park. A dog agility show, hosted by the Shiawassee Dog Program, will run from 2 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m.

The fireworks show, sponsored by Meijer and Memorial Healthcare, brings things to a close at dusk.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the celebration, which is planned and organized by the city’s Fourth of July Commission under the authority of the Parks and Recreation Commission. Only about 30 to 40 volunteers form the backbone of the event. They meet each year in January to reorganize, and begin planning in earnest in March, Fernette said.

The cost of the celebration, approximately $30,000, is covered by sponsors, donations and funds raised by the commission throughout the year.

Volunteers are needed to ensure the event’s success, though many have become scarce in recent years.

“I don’t think people understand: It’s not just a day. The day before is set-up, the day of is everything going on and the day after we’ve got to clean everything up,” Fernette said, adding “We don’t ask anybody to volunteer a whole day; we only ask them to volunteer maybe two or three hours at the most depending on what their event is.”

Despite the array of challenges, Lawson and Fernette remain committed to ensuring the continuation of this free community event.

“It’s just a point of pride,” Lawson said. “A lot of these events are done to make money, where this is not a money maker. That’s big to me, giving it all (to the community).”

For more information about the Corunna Fourth of July Celebration, including how to volunteer or become a sponsor, visit corunna4th.org or call city hall at (989) 743-3650.

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