SPRINGFIELD — Whether you’re a child or a child-at-heart, Springfield is the place to “party with a purpose” — especially if you like disco music and pony rides.
Light of Liberty, Springfield Utility Board’s Fourth of July celebration, is set to light up the Fourth from 4-10 p.m. with more additions to its traditional line ups at Island Park. This year, the event will feature an expanded Kid Nation, a disco tribute band, more food and drink vendors, ending with a bold fireworks display over the Willamette River.
“We love putting it on,” said Meredith Clark, who is the SUB community relations manager. “It’s one of the biggest things that Springfield has to offer its community.”
This will be the first year that a tribute band, ABBAcadabra – the ultimate ABBA tribute band, will be the headliner – and also the first year that the music genre for the headliner will be disco rather than rock and roll or country. And the post-pandemic staffing issues some food vendors experienced last year have been remedied, meaning more vendors will be back.
The most exciting change from last year to this year for animal lovers is within Kid Nation. As the animals were a big hit last year, Clark said, and instead of just one pony, there will be two. There will be one for children to ride on in a carousel and another pony, which will be trotting around on reins. Pony rides are only for children up to 70 pounds for the safety of the animals.
If you’re looking forward to seeing the animals at Light of Liberty, make sure to plan ahead and give yourself ample time to do so. While Kid Nation is open from 4-9 p.m., the animal exhibits – like the petting zoo and pony rides – will close at 8 p.m. so the animals have enough time to leave the venue prior to the fireworks display, Clark suggested.
Light of Liberty touts a family-friendly experience. Once someone has entered the event, they are able to access everything in Kid Nation for free, so there are no barriers for families who may not be able to make an additional expense.
“I love seeing families out there at the event,” Clark said. “There’s just nothing better than a couple with kids running around, having a good time.”
SUB will donate all proceeds from Light of Liberty to Project Share, so as people celebrate the holiday with friends and family, they are raising money for low-income Springfield residents who need assistance paying their electricity bills. According to Clark, Project Share helps about 1,000 Springfield households annually. It has helped just over 800 households so far this season.
Clark said the event has raised over $750,000 — perhaps closer to $1 million — over the course of its 18 years in operation. The event “helps people with those bills, so it’s pretty impactful in the community – and one of the reasons we love doing it,” she said.
While Light of Liberty is the primary fundraiser for Project Share, there are three other ways the community can donate: rounding up your monthly SUB bill to the nearest dollar, committing to a monthly pledge, or providing a one-time donation.
Clark gave some advice for people who will be coming to Light of Liberty for the first time:
- Get tickets online to avoid the ticket line at the main entrance. Online tickets are $8, while tickets are $10 at the main entrance, and kids under 5 years old and veterans can attend for free.
- Make use of the free shuttle service after finding street parking. The free shuttle service runs every 15 minutes from 3:30-11 p.m. from the Booth Kelly parking lot at 225 South 5th Street to the corner of Mill and B streets.
- Utilize the bike and stroller valet. This valet, which is at the Wallamalane Adult Activity Center, is accessible for all forms of wheels, including motorcycles and skateboards.
- Arrive at a time that makes sense for what you’re going for. If you’re hoping to secure a good spot for the firework show or the musical performances, make sure to get there early, as many people typically line up before the event starts at 4 p.m. to secure their spot.
- Prepare for the fireworks show by ensuring you’re where you want to be before the clock strikes 10.