KNOX COUNTY – For most U.S. citizens, the Fourth of July means grilling out, drinking cold beverages and watching fireworks.
For Ariel-Foundation Park, the Fourth of July is showtime.
“This is the biggest event we do all year,” marketing director Carrie Haver said. “It’s really rewarding for us, to get to talk to so many people and see the park being used – the entire park – by so many people.”
Ariel-Foundation Park opened on July 4, 2015, and every year since, Independence Day has marked “the park at its height,” Haver said. An estimated 10,000 people descend upon Ariel-Foundation Park annually for July 4 festivities that begin with music at 3 p.m. and conclude with fireworks at 10 p.m.
The summertime tradition attracts visitors from across the state, turning Mount Vernon into a red-white-and-blue tourist destination.
“It’s fun to kind of scout the parking lot because then you get to see where a lot of the cars are from. There’s a lot of Franklin County, there’s northern Ohio, southern Ohio, so there’s really people there from all over,” Haver said.
“Maybe they came to visit their family, and their family’s here in Mount Vernon and they brought them here. But however they get here, they’re here, and it’s wonderful and we love to have a big celebration.”
This year’s July 4 festivities will begin at 3 p.m. with a performance by the Mount Vernon Community Band at First-Knox Pavilion, which is located near The Lakes. The Central Ohio Brass Band will perform at 5 p.m. in the Schnormeier Event Center. At 7:30, TUSK: The Ultimate Fleetwood Mac Tribute Band will take center stage. The band will play Fleetwood Mac’s greatest hits, paying tribute to one of the world’s best-selling rock bands.
Food vendors will set up shop at 3 p.m. near the restrooms by The Lakes and in front of the Schnormeier Event Center. Visitors will be able to snack on barbecue, ice cream, lemonade and much more. Beer and wine will also be available.
Fireworks will begin at 10 p.m. Suggested locations from which to view the fireworks other than Ariel-Foundation Park include Arch Park, the Harcourt Road parking area for Ariel-Foundation Park, CA&C Depot, or Memorial Park.
This year, the local nonprofit Paddle for Heroes will offer kayaks and life jackets to veterans and first responders who want to watch the fireworks on the water. Paddle for Heroes volunteers will be stationed near the new ADA-accessible kayak launch on Central Lake, and the equipment will be provided free-of-charge. Those interested must RSVP with Joe Butts by calling or texting 740-258-2127, as the fleet is limited.
Parkgoers will see more trash containers around the grassy areas of the park this year, Haver said. The park staff encourages patrons to properly dispose of their trash, as Haver said it “was an issue last year.” Volunteers had to come back the next day to pick up trash from the grassy areas of the park. By adding extra trash bins, the park staff hopes waste will be less of an issue this year.
Parking will be set up the same as it was last year. Lots will be available at The Lakes, entering from Madison Avenue; The Meadows off of Pittsburgh Avenue; near the Clock House off of Pittsburg Avenue; and in the parking area off of Harcourt Road. All parking in front of Schnormeier Event Center will be designated handicapped only.
Visitors are encouraged to park downtown and walk 10 minutes along the bike trail to get to the park. No parking limits will be enforced downtown on July 4. Knox Area Transit will also run three shuttles from Mount Vernon High School, both before the fireworks (6-8 p.m.) and after (10:30-11:30 p.m.).
While Haver said this year’s July 4 celebration will seem similar to those in years’ past, next year’s celebration is expected to be one for the books. Ariel-Foundation Park will be celebrating its fifth anniversary on July 4, 2020.
“We are planning a really big celebration for 2020,” Haver said. “So people can be looking for more information on that a little bit later.”
Of course, Ariel-Foundation Park isn’t the only place where Knox County residents can celebrate Independence Day this week. Here is a list of other July 4 festivities that will occur in Knox County and the surrounding region:
Apple Valley: The Apple Valley Property Owners Association will host a Fourth of July celebration on July 3 from 4-8 p.m. at the Club House. The entry fee is $10 per car and the celebration includes games, prizes and entertainment. Visitors can snack on food truck items, Hawaiian ice and hot dogs. Beer will also be available. There will be no fireworks on this day. Residents can RSVP here.
Fredericktown: Community Park will host fireworks on July 4 at 10 p.m. According to the Mount Vernon News, the Fredericktown Community Fire District will offer bingo in the park’s enclosed shelter house at 3 p.m. and the Fredericktown Lion’s Club will sponsor kids games near the lake. The band “Southbound” will perform at 7:30 p.m. before fireworks commence at dusk.
Gambier: Gambier’s Annual Community Parade will take place uptown on July 4, following the naming of the Citizen of the Year and Gambier Poet Laureate at 10:45 a.m.
Loudonville: Fireworks will begin at dusk July 6 at Riverside Park in Loudonville. This year's show will be presented by Zambelli Fireworks.
Earlier that day is Loudonville's Annual Car Show, which features more than 500 cars and runs 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. downtown. This award-winning car show is known to shut down the streets of downtown Loudonville and the area with spectators. An antique festival will be held simultaneously at Central Park.
>> To see a complete list of Ashland County July 4 festivities, click here.
Mansfield: Mansfield Motor Speedway, located at 400 Crall Road East, will offer a free fireworks show and festival Sunday, June 30. Gates open at 6 p.m., and fireworks begin at dusk. There will be a face painter, balloon artist and cornhole. Plus, iHeartRadio will be on site playing live on-air music. Food and beverages will be available on site.
Charles Mill Lake Park's fireworks show, typically held around Independence Day, has been rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 31 due to high water levels that have impacted recreational boating and camping, according to a Facebook post.
>> To see a complete list of Richland County July 4 festivities, click here.
Sunbury: Big Walnut High School will display fireworks on July 4 at 10 p.m. Sunbury's Independence Day celebration will begin with a parade at 10 a.m., starting at Big Walnut High School. There will be festivities on the square from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., then festivities at Big Walnut High School from 6-11 p.m.
Granville: Wildwood Park will display fireworks on July 5 at 9:45 p.m. The Granville Kiwanis Club is having an Independence Day celebration July 3-6 in downtown Granville. The celebration will include live music, dancing, a five-mile race, a parade, rides, competitions and more.
Utica: South End Park will display fireworks on July 4 at 9:45 p.m. Utica's Independence Day celebration will last from 5-9 p.m. and will include food, games and vendors.
Newark: Central Ohio Technical College, Ohio State University Newark, and the Reese Family Foundation will host festivities and fireworks on July 3 at the Newark campus (Martha Grace Reese Amphitheater). Live music and food vendors will be present from 6-10 p.m., and fireworks will go off at dusk.
Coshocton: The Coshocton County Fairgrounds will host fireworks on July 3 at 10 p.m.
Millersburg: 'Thunder Over Holmes County' will conclude at dusk on Saturday, June 29 with fireworks in downtown Millersburg. Live entertainment can be found all day Saturday on the courthouse lawn. There will be a farmer's market, 'Chalk the Lot' art contest, food trucks and live music downtown as well.
Mount Gilead: The Morrow County Independence Day Celebration will begin at 2 p.m. on July 3 at the fairgrounds (195 S. Main St.) and finish with fireworks at dusk. Laser tag, a frog jumping contest and various games will be played in the afternoon. There will be square dancing from 7-10 p.m. and truck/tractor pulls at 7:30 p.m. Fireworks will commence after the pulls have finished.
Centerburg displayed its annual Heart of Ohio USA Days Festival fireworks last Saturday, June 22, at Centerburg Memorial Park.