The Forum to Revitalize Shenandoah has worked hard to help revitalize the community of Shenandoah by promoting small retail businesses and organizing community events, and now they have made it their goal to help bring back a Fourth of July celebration to remember.
Last summer, the Forum organized an event called Star Spangled Shenandoah. It was held on the Saturday before the Fourth of July and included activities at Priest Park, a parade and a promotion to boost retail business. With the first year under their belts, board members of the Forum Mace Hensen and Stacy Truex said planning the event this year has been a little bit easier.
Hensen said he was encouraged by the feedback from last year's event but also learned a few things that could be improved upon.
The Star Spangled Shenandoah event will be held on Saturday, July 2. It will kick off with a parade at 10 a.m., starting at the intersection of West Clarinda Avenue and West Thomas Avenue, and will follow West Thomas Avenue to Elm Street, turning south on Elm Street and ending at Priest Park. Following the parade, if you make your way down to Priest Park, you will find around 35 vendors in the park ranging from crafters, community groups, organizations and church groups. Also set up in Priest Park will be children’s games, bounce houses, axe throwing, monster trucks, antique tractors and live entertainment from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Live entertainment will include a local band Gas N Grass, Shenandoah native Cori Baldwin and her daughters, a husband and wife duo from Clarinda called Head Over Heels, and a duo performance from Shenandoah High School students Drew Morelock and Kaitlyn Widger.
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New this year will be two food trucks located at Priest Park serving lunch, and one of those food trucks will also serve a full breakfast. The Farmers Market will be set up at Priest Park from 8 to 11 a.m. There will be a pie baking contest with judging at noon, awards at 12:30 p.m., and homemade pies auctioned off following the judging at 1 p.m. Hensen said the Shenandoah Music Boosters would also be at Priest Park selling ice cream sandwiches from the Schwan truck as a fundraiser for their new band uniforms.
At 2 p.m., the activities move to Sportsman Park with little league baseball games, Shenandoah Fire Department water fights, the American Legion Post #88 flag retirement, and the evening will end with the American Legion Post #88 and City of Shenandoah fireworks show. Food sponsored by Fareway, Elm Street Grill and the Shenandoah Park and Recreation Department will be available at Sportsman Park around dinner time. It will include hamburgers, hotdogs, chips and drinks.
The Forum to Revitalize Shenandoah was instrumental in raising donations from local businesses for the fireworks show this year and plans to send out a direct mail letter to help raise funds for the 2023 fireworks show.
Hensen said one thing they tried to focus on this year when planning the event was to make it fun for the whole family. An event where kids could come out and enjoy the day with their parents at one of the parks, he said.
“It's great that the Forum and the community are all jumping on board,” Truex said.
If you were in Shenandoah for the Star Spangled Celebration last summer, you might remember the Freedom Passport promoting shopping at the downtown and small businesses in Shenandoah. Hensen and Truex said this would be part of the event again this year with a few changes. This year the Freedom Passports will be available to pick up on Friday, June 24, and shoppers will have until Tuesday, July 5, to fill their cards with the passport stamps and turn the passport in instead of having just one day. Freedom Passports turned in will be collected on Friday, July 5, and the winners of a $500 and a $250 cash prize will be announced on Friday, July 8 at Jacquelines Venue on Highway 59 on the south edge of Shenandoah. Hensen said along with the financial institutions sponsoring the cash prizes this year, 40 retail businesses donated as well.
On Saturday, July 2, the downtown retail businesses also plan to have sidewalk sales set up for patrons.
Truex said the planning of the Star Spangled Celebration was a group effort of the Forum and community members and anticipates it will be a fun weekend for everyone.
In its third year, Hensen said the Forum's original intent was to be a thinking tank for community members to come up with ideas on revitalizing Shenandoah. He said the group then took on a different direction and started implementing those ideas.
“We can all sit around and talk about this and talk about that, but if we don’t start doing something, that’s where the revitalization happens,” Hensen said. “We’re now finding ways to energize and engage people in the community. And that’s the key to getting people to come out to events, get people involved, and bring in some new people that maybe haven’t been involved.”
Making community involvement a priority, Truex said the Forum is always open to new ideas and community input.