Funtastic Fourth returns Saturday

Area residents can get a jump start on the upcoming July 4 holiday this weekend.The 10th Annual Alon USA/Alon Brands Funtastic Fourth, presented by the Downtown Revitalization Association, will be held Saturday in the area surrounding the Howard County Courthouse.Admission is free to the event, which will last from 10 a.m. until midnight.Organizers promise a day filled with music, fun and food.People can get a sneak peek of sorts Friday, when festival organizers preview a new event — the Swifty Swine pig races — at 7 p.m. in Heart of the City Park.“This is a new event we're adding this year,” said Allan Johnson, one of the festival's organizers. “It's something they hold at state fair every year and it's a lot of fun to watch.”Another new attraction this year is the addition of a video game truck to the Kid's Zone area. The air-conditioned truck features a wide variety of video games and seats 15 children at a time, Allen said.Aside from the video truck, Kid's Zone also will feature a rock climbing wall, mechanical bull and bungee jumping. Armbands which allow access to all Kid's Zone attractions are $25, while individual tickets are $5, said Christy Brorman, another of the event's organizers.In addition to games, the festival will feature day-long music from bands which will perform on two stages. The headline act will be country musician Rich O'Toole, who will perform at 10:30 p.m., but music ranging from rock to Christian also will be featured, organizers said.Also, vendor booths will be open, providing a wide variety of food items for sale, Johnson said.The only area of concern is with the weather. Although temperatures are not expected to exceed 100 as in recent days, it will still be hot Saturday and both Johnson and Brorman advised festival-goers to exercise caution.“There will be plenty of shade, and we'll have some mist-blowing machines operating to help cool people off, but folks will definitely want to be prepared for some hot temperatures,” Johnson said.“They just need bring their sunscreen and their lawn chairs and prepare for a fun, hot time,” Brorman added.Saturday's schedule of events includes:• 9 a.m. — vendor booths open.• 10 a.m. — opening ceremonies (national anthem sung by Cheridan Fulgham).• 10:10 a.m. — patriotic pooch parade and contest; washer tournament signup; Swifty Swine Pig Races begin; Kid's Zone opens; The Hub opens; music begins on the Alon Stage.• 11 a.m. — music begins on the Crossroads Saloon Stage.• 1 p.m. — washer tournament begins.• 2:30 p.m. — 7-Eleven Big Bite hot dog eating contest.• 4 p.m. — evening music performances begin.• 11:30 p.m. — festivities end.