Woodward, Okla. —
Turtle races, firecrackers, food and fun. There's only one thing that can bring all these things together, Woodward's 4th of July Celebration in the Park.
Jennifer Newton, event coordinator with Woodward Conventions and Visitors Bureau, said this year's 4th of July Celebration will be even "bigger and better" than years past.
"I remember when I was a little girl, the place to be on the 4th of July was Crystal Beach Park. We just want to bring that back," Newton said. "That's why we try to grow it every year, because we want to make it something bigger and better so we can bring back people to make those memories with their families."
This year's celebration will include a wide variety of activities, from events that have become long-held traditions, to popular returning events and even a few brand new events.
This Independence Day festivities will kick off with the annual Firecracker 5K Run, which has been held by the Woodward High School Cross Country Team on Independence Day for the past 4 or 5 years.
To pre-register for the race, contact Cross Country Coach Ashley Stout by calling (580) 819-3548.
Stout said you can also register for the event on the day of, starting at 6:45 a.m., but you can save a few dollars off the entry fee by registering in advance.
Proceeds from the entry fees will go to benefit the cross country team, helping to offset some of the team's transportation and lodging costs and entry fees when participating in regional and state meets.
The registration table and race start line will be located along Temple Houston Dr. between the water park and Fuller Park. The race will begin around 7 a.m.
Trophies will be presented to the man and woman with the best times, and medals will be awarded to the top finishers in different age groups.
Following the Firecracker 5K, will be the traditional kids games and turtle races sponsored by the Woodward AMBUCS.
"This is the 30th year for the races," AMBUCS member Ronnie Brittain said, noting they remain as popular as ever.
And the format remains the same as well.
"We'll start with the turtle registration after 8 o'clock. But they definitely should be in the registration line by 8:30 a.m., because we'd like to start the races as close to 9 a.m. as we can, depending on how many kids are still in line," Brittain said.
The kids games will start with foot races, he said, where "boys and girls will compete independently and they'll be broken into age groups so they're running against kids with roughly the same abilities and same size as them."
Every child who competes will get a ribbon, with 1st, 2nd and 3rd place ribbons given to those who finish the fastest.
Then the turtles will be raced in heats of 10, with the 1st and 2nd place winners in each heat moving on until there's one final championship heat. Trophies will be awarded to the children whose turtles come in 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the championship race.
Brittain said "it works best if there's just one turtle per child," so you don't end up with children competing against themselves.
However, he added, "if they have extra turtles, I would encourage them to still bring them because we always have some kids looking for turtles who don't have one. So they could bring their extras and share with them."
The kids' foot races will be held on the lawn in front of the band shell. The turtle registration table and races will be located just to the west of the toddler playground area south of the band shell.
3-ON-3 BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
While the children and their turtles are racing, adults can get in on their own competition as part of a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
Newton said that the basketball tournament is both a returning and a somewhat new event for the 4th of July celebration. She explained that a similar tournament was held last year, but just featured teams of 2 competing against each other.
However, she said all those who participated last year agreed that they would prefer a 3-on-3 competition, "so we switched."
In addition to the 3 members on each team, she said "they are allowed 1 substitute."
There is an entry fee for the competition, which goes to help offset the prize money that will be awarded, Newton said, noting the first place team will receive $1,200.
She said they are looking to have 32 teams compete in this year's tournament "so we don't have any byes."
Those wanting to participate are asked to pre-register online at gowoodward.com. Registration will then open at 8:30 a.m. on the 4th, with round 1 of tournament play beginning at 9 a.m. Teams will be competing on temporary courts in the parking lot located south of the main park area.
While the 3-on-3 basketball tournament is limited for those 18-years-old and over, Newton said that all ages can participate in a basketball shoot-off contest, which will be held around 6 p.m. on the same temporary courts.
There is no entry fee for the shoot-off, but prizes will be awarded in 2 categories, Newton said. The first is a progressive shoot-off, where competitors will shoot a lay-up, free throw and 3 point shot, and the second is a half-court shoot-off, with the winner being the first contestant to successfully make a half-court shot, she said.
HORSESHOES, PADDLE BOATS, WATERMELONS AND MORE
If basketball isn't your thing, then you might want to try your hand at some horseshoe pitching.
The Woodward County Horseshoe Pitchers Association will be holding a horseshoe tournament starting at 11 a.m. at the horseshoe courts located north of Temple Houston Dr. near the east entrance to the park.
Ronnie Frederick, who is a member of the horseshoe pitchers association, said that those wanting to participate need to arrive at least 30 minutes early to sign up, but the sooner the better so he can get them added to the competition bracket.
A cash prize will be offered to the winning team.
If horseshoes isn't your game either, there are plenty of other activities you can enjoy throughout the day from riding or even racing paddle boats with your friends to "watermelon chunkin," where you can slingshot watermelons into the lake.
For the watermelon chunkin, Newton said you will pay a small fee and then get 3 chances to see how far you can get a watermelon to fly while using "those bungees that you use to put water balloons in."
The watermelon chunkin will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and will be held on the north side of the lake, "probably on one of those piers that jut into the lake," she said.
And watermelons aren't the only thing you have the opportunity to splash. There will also be a Dunk-A-Teacher booth from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Newton said, where you can purchase chances to try to dunk your most, or least, liked teacher.
She said the dunking lineup includes 2013 Teacher of the Year Chelsea Roberts, along with Amy Whitewater, Jason Harrison, Michelle McDonald and even a coach, Corey Miller.
"We thought it would be fun because everybody wants to dunk their teacher for some reason or another. This is the perfect opportunity to get back at a teacher for all that homework they gave you. But for those still in school, you also have to be careful in case you get that teacher again this year," Newton said.
Other activities on the celebration schedule include a Little Miss and Little Mr. Firecracker Pageant hosted by Woodward Main Street from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Contact Main Street Director Janet Fitz at 254-8521 for more information about the youth pageant.
Then from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., everyone is invited to come enjoy a free hamburger dinner offered by Dairy Queen.
Then after waiting an hour to let your food digest, the Crystal Beach Aquatic Center will be open from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. for a special night swim opportunity for the holiday.
LOTS TO ENTERTAIN
But Newton said some of the highlights of this year's 4th of July Celebration will be the entertainment performances.
For example, she said some new performers this year include a group of men from Lumberjack Enterprises, out of Minnesota.
These lumberjacks will be showing off their skills during three 30-minute performances throughout the day, she said. The shows are scheduled for 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., on the northwest side of the lake in the area where the old swimming pool used to be.
"Basically it will be like the all American lumberjack shows that you see on television. They're even going to bring a 10,000 gallon water tank and show how to do logrolling," Newton said, noting "it's pretty amazing."
They will also be holding an interactive camp at 4:15 p.m., where the public can try their hand at logrolling themselves, she said.
To learn more about the lumberjacks and get an idea of what their shows involve, visit their website at LumberjackEnterprises.com.
Another new performer for this year includes Loop Rawlins, who is a professional trick roper. He will be holding a wild west show at 9:15 p.m. at the band shell.
Newton said that one reason Rawlins' show is slated so late in the evening, is because "he has this one trick where he lights his rope on fire."
"That's why we wanted to do his show at night, so we could get all the lights and the full effect," she said.
However, she can't guarantee that he will be able to perform the fire rope trick, but she said his performance should be breathtaking nonetheless.
"He just finished a stint with Cirque du Soleil and everyone knows how amazing Cirque du Soleil is and how talented you have to be to perform with them," Newton said.
While excited about these outside performers, Newton said that the 4th Celebration is also "about trying to showcase the community."
That is why several local performers will also be taking to the stage at the band shell to entertain the crowd between 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
These local entertainers include Miss Cinderella Julia Benbrook, Miss Woodward Amanda Covalt, Miss Woodward Talent Winner Brittany Roberts, and the Boomer Drumline and Color Guard.
But of course the big entertainment for the evening, as always, will be the fireworks display, which will end the day of celebration with a bang around 10 p.m.