City preps for July 3 festival

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By ANTHONY FLORES

As July 4th approaches, the City of Liberty Hill is working to provide a fun and safe environment for its annual Independence Day celebration, set for Friday, July 3.

With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing and the pandemic still prominent in people’s minds, City staff say they are taking precautions to keep things sanitized and people socially distant, all while giving them a fun experience.

“We know people want to have this festival and are ready to continue living. What’s a better time to celebrate our freedom than Fourth of July,” said City Events Coordinator Katie Amsler. “We want to do it, and we’ve taken every precaution we can. We’re working closely with the health district to make sure we’re following protocol.”

Because of a lack of parking, there will be shuttles to get to and from the event, but precautions have been put in place to help reduce the risk on the buses, Amsler said. People showing signs of being sick cannot ride the shuttle.

“The shuttle buses will all have a sanitizing station on them. Face masks are required on shuttles,” said Amsler. “As of last week, we were highly encouraging masks, but we require them with the numbers going up.

Buses will not be at full occupancy, so we want everyone to know shuttle lines may be longer. We also recommend if you’re 65 or older or immunocompromised that you stay home.”

With the potential of such a large gathering, Amsler says smaller groups are encouraged, as well as social distancing.

“We are encouraging no more than groups of 10 and maintaining a six-foot distance when you’re at the festival, so we want people to spread out,” she said. “Please use common sense and be smart. The food trucks and porta-potties will be spaced out.”

While the watermelon spitting contest got the axe for safety reasons, the community can participate in one of the most American competitions in existence and a staple of any Independence Day celebration.

“We’re only having one contest out there this year, which is the hotdog eating contest,” said Amsler. “We canceled the watermelon spitting contest because spit can spread COVID.”

Community members willing to take the chance on scarfing down some hotdogs have the opportunity to win a trophy and, more importantly, bragging rights.

Two contests traditionally held at the festival will be moved to the Stubblefield Visitors Center as a safety measure.

“We normally have the homemade ice cream and homemade apple pie contests out there, but we’ve modified it this year to make it a little bit safer,” said Amsler. “We’re going to hold those contests still, but we’re going to do them the weekend before. It’s this coming Saturday. We’re going to have the contest here at the Stubblefield building. People can show up with their apple pies and ice cream. The judges will be here, and at the festival, we’ll announce the winners.”

Winners of the contests will receive a $100 cash prize. Ribbons will be handed out, with the first-place finisher taking home the coveted blue ribbon.

Community members who venture out to the event can expect live music, with three musical guests.

“We’re going to have three bands this year,” said Amsler. “We have Colby Keeling from 6-7 p.m. Then we have Little Texas from 8-9:30 p.m. Then we’re going to have a post fireworks band this year; it’s nameless Road, which is a local Liberty Hill band. We’re doing that so that people can exit the park in phases, so we don’t have one massive clump of people at the shuttle lines.”

A variety of food trucks offering all types of cuisine will be spread out around the park. One of the new additions to the event this year is an alcohol tent.

“We have all kinds of food trucks so you can pick what you want,” said Amsler. “This year we have something new, which is the alcohol tent. It’s something people have wanted for a long time. We’ve eased into it. We’ve never had alcohol, but we’re going to sell it so we can sell it safely.”

Kids will have an area filled with different activities, all sanitized and spread out.

“We have a whole kids zone, with a rock wall, bounce houses, slip and slides, and a dunking booth,” said Amsler. “We have a couple of different water slides, and a bungee run. We’ll have a train, too, and that’s always popular. We’re going to have an undercover agent walking around the kids zone, passing out free coupons for kids.”

Amsler feels this celebration is just what the community needs, after weeks of being stuck at home.

“Liberty Hill is all about community, and the idea of an actual celebration is very exciting,” she said. “We think we are all ready for some fresh air, and watching fireworks by Zoom doesn’t have the same ring. We look forward to sharing a safe and memorable event in our beautiful city.”

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