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Games, food, fireworks highlight of July 4 event at Alumni Stadium in Amherst

In this photo from 2011, 
Aidan Waldron of South Deerfield, left, and Zander Charland of Athol participate in a sack race during the Amherst Independence Day celebration at the McGuirk Stadium athletic fields. A similar day will be offered there again next Thursday.
BULLETIN FILE PHOTO

In this photo from 2011, Aidan Waldron of South Deerfield, left, and Zander Charland of Athol participate in a sack race during the Amherst Independence Day celebration at the McGuirk Stadium athletic fields. A similar day will be offered there again next Thursday. BULLETIN FILE PHOTO Purchase photo reprints »

Fireworks are the most prominent feature of the July 4 celebration in Amherst, but before they light up the sky next Thursday there will be more than four hours of festivities.

The town’s department of Leisure Services and Supplemental Education is organizing the event featuring music, food and variety of activities, including a blacksmithing demonstration by Ted Hinman that recalls life in 1776. “He will draw a crowd, I’m certain of it,” said Linda Chalfant, director of LSSE. “There is a lot of fun to be had.”

Beginning at 5 p.m., the fields behind Alumni Stadium at the University of Massachusetts will be transformed into an area filled with children’s games, burlap bag races, face painting, carnival rides and a climbing wall. Hoopoe the Clown and Mr. Balloon for You will be entertaining, while a tethered hot air balloon sponsored by Re/Max lifts people above the fields.

There will be a blueberry pie eating contest with 45 pies from Atkins Farms Country Market in Amherst and corn husking with produce from Whole Foods Market in Hadley.

Music will include performances by the Deerfield River Ensemble and the Amherst Community Band, directed by James Patrick Miller and Heidi Miller.

Hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries, Domino’s pizza, Riga Bello fried dough and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and frozen treats will be among the food sold.

Raffles will include chances to win prizes from Hadley Garden Center, UMass athletics and LSSE.

Chalfant said the celebration is also a chance to relax. “We encourage people to come, bring a blanket and bring a Frisbee,” she said.

People who drive to the event will be asked to pay $5 for parking in nearby lots. There will also be free bus service, provided by PVTA and UMass Transit, from The Boulders and Old Belchertown Road at both 7 and 8:15 p.m., and from Townehouse Apartments at 7:45 p.m.

Chalfant said the town of Amherst gets significant assistance from Hadley, UMass and the business community to support the event that costs in excess of $25,000 to put on.

“The University of Massachusetts is once again being extremely cooperative and supportive,” Chalfant said.

Chalfant has particular praise for Justin Cobb, a UMass facilities employee with whom she has worked for several years coordinating the event. He will be retiring. Two interns from UMass, Ken Hanson and Carleigh Kmetz, are helping with the programming.

Chalfant added that the area will be well lit so people can safely leave the grounds after dark.

Anyone interested in sponsoring the event can call LSSE at 259-3065.

The festivities likely will go on in light, or even steady rain, Chalfant said, but if there are questions people can call the LSSE office or visit the town’s website at www.amherstma.gov.

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