Organizers want big turnout for July 4 event at Arena Park

Friday, July 3, 2009 ~ Updated 9:16 PM
Patriot Guard Riders exit the grandstand at Arena Park after a tribute ceremony in their honor Friday evening. (Fred Lynch)

The future of the Joint Veterans Council's Independence Day celebration will be decided by the people of Cape Girardeau, organizer Rodger Brown said as he surveyed the sparsely filled Arena Park grandstand prior to Friday evening's truck and tractor pull event.

But as the roar of highly tuned engines filled the arena, more people filtered in. Brown is hoping for a full grandstand today for the demolition derby and fireworks display sponsored by the veterans council to replace the canceled Libertyfest, usually held on the river.

"It's been like trying to shove spaghetti through a 10-foot straw," Brown said of the effort to get the "Celebrating America's Birthday" event organized. "It can be done, it is just not that easy."

On Friday evening, as he spoke during the presentation of the Southeast Missourian Spirit of America Award to Harry Rediger, Southeast Missourian publisher and co-president Jon K. Rust thanked Brown and the other veterans who took up the challenge.

"When it appeared the community might not have a celebration at this important time," Rust said the veterans stepped up.

During the presentation to Rediger, Mayor Jay Knudtson called him a man he can rely on for good advice and praised Rediger's dedication to the community. Rediger was honored for his leading role in a number of charitable and civic organizations, including the United Way, Saint Francis Medical Center Foundation and the Southeast Missouri State University Foundation.

Rediger said he's become addicted to volunteering over his years as manager of the JC Penney's store in Cape Girardeau and in retirement. "It is a good addiction," he said.

On Friday, activities centered on the Arena Building during the afternoon, where face painting, political information and food stands were available. Today, an elimination washer tournament will begin at noon, with children's activities available. The demolition derby will begin at 6 p.m., with a patriotic tribute and fireworks to finish the evening.

A political protest tea party will be held on the steps of the Arena Building from 3 to 5 p.m.

Admission to the park is free. Grandstand tickets for the demolition derby are $10.

It's those admissions to the demolition derby, along with the proceeds from vendors, that will decide the event's fate, said Brown, who is also president of the VietNow Trail of Tears chapter.

The goal is to break even after paying for police security, fire department coverage, prizes for the truck pull and demolition derby and insurance, Brown said. Success, he said, "would be to get our bills paid so we can have the honor of trying to do it again next year."

Jackson is also holding an all-day event leading to fireworks in City Park. The day begins with a 5 kilometer race and walk at 7:30 a.m. A car show begins at 9 a.m. and children's activities begin at 10 a.m. Evening musical performances by Saxy Jazz Transitions and the Jackson Municipal Band begin at 7 p.m., with fireworks scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent addresses:

410 Kiwanis Drive, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

City Park, Jackson, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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