The city of Chillicothe celebrated its independence with a full day of events Thursday.
The Fourth of July holiday kicked off with the 19th annual Grand River Area Family YMCA Freedom Run at Simpson Park. Matt Jones, associate executive director of the YMCA, said this year's race garnered a record 90 pre-race registrations. He estimated 120-130 participants total.
Relatively cool temperatures, the kind of weather runners favor, made for near-perfect race conditions. Jones said this year's weather was much better than last year's.
“I think when we started, it was 89 degrees," Jones explained. "When we got done, it was in the high 90s. It was bad, but this year it was perfect. It was only 60 degrees this morning. It was wonderful, some of the best we've had.”
A full list of medalists from this year's race will be published in a later edition of the Constitution-Tribune.
The celebration continued with the arrival of the U.S. Military All Stars. The traveling baseball team, with players from every branch of the U.S. armed forces, arrived around noon and was led through the city by a procession of vehicles from the Chillicothe police and fire departments.
Around 2 p.m., the All Stars and the Chillicothe Mudcats met with the public for an afternoon tailgate party outside Shaffer Park. Military vehicles, weaponry and memorabilia were on display. The Missouri National Guard and Trenton Coca-Cola sponsored a free meal of hot dogs, chips and bottled water.
The All Stars and the Mudcats entertained the crowd at Shaffer Park to a seven-inning game which featured more patriotic activities between innings. This included an emotional tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
The food, fun and family-friendly activities continued around 6 p.m. with the kickoff of the Freedom Festival at Simpson Park. Last year's hot and dry weather conditions prompted a burn ban, causing the cancellation of last year's event and fireworks display.
Children's games, face painting, glitter tattoos and music were just a handful of the activities festival-goers could enjoy during the event. Hy-Vee, Carl Maasdam's Food Booth and Tsunami Snow served up burgers, tenderloins, hot dogs, onion blossoms, funnel cakes, lemon shake-ups and Hawaiian shaved ice.
At dusk, the skies over Simpson Park transformed into a sea of color with an impressive fireworks display.
Freedom Festival Chairman Dan Leatherman called this year's event a success. He said the festival could not have been accomplished without strong community support.
“I would like to thank everyone who donated money for the purchase of fireworks,” Leatherman said. “This includes the City of Chillicothe and many other foundations and local businesses. I would also like to thank the Chillicothe Emergency Services/Fire Department, plus the Parks and Recreation Department and the Chillicothe Country Club.”