Fourth of July in Ferguson

A Fourth behind the scenes 

The city of Ferguson takes over planning of their Fourth of July Festival from a long-standing committee and offers an inside look at what it takes to pull off such a massive undertaking 

By Charlotte Beard

Up until this year, the city of Ferguson’s Fourth of July events have been organized by a committee that was not part of the city. Ferguson primarily paid for the fireworks. Due to the prior planning committee members becoming older, they no longer desired the responsibility. Therefore, Ferguson elected to take the entire festival over to begin 2019 plans for the Ferguson Fourth of July Festival as of October 2018. This year also marks Ferguson’s 125th anniversary for being incorporated as a city.

David Musgrave, Interim Director for Ferguson’s Parks and Recreation, shared, “For a lot of the vendors, we’ve just relied on what we’ve used in the past. This year we really didn’t shop it out as much as we would have liked. Typically, when we are doing a festival like this, we’d have a year to plan for it. We only had seven or eight months.”

Musgrave shared that the new committee consists of approximately 20 stakeholders throughout the Ferguson community; one-fourth of the team are city employees. 

“One of the senior members came up with the theme – Ferguson Marching Forward,” stated Musgrave. “We first sat down in September or October last year to come up with a theme because every year there’s been a theme for Fourth of July, mainly so the parade can have an idea of (the decorations), etc. (The member) threw the theme out there and everyone seemed to like it so that’s what we went with.”

Security is always a concern when you have an open public gathering, especially for events such as Fourth of July where there are known to be fireworks.

“We have two representatives from the Ferguson Police Department who are on the committee,” stated Musgrave. “They help us with logistics for as where we think we need officers placed, barricades, how many officers we think we’ll need throughout the day to cover all basis with the parade, to cover the Family Fun area, the entire park and fireworks. By having two senior officers on the committee, their knowledge has really helped us know what we need to do and have in place to make sure it’s a safe environment for everyone to have a good time.”

The Ferguson Police Department has a schedule for where they will be positioned for the day as well as each officer’s responsibility.

Musgrave further shared, “We do tap into a security company for some of our overnight security. We set up the festival the day before and we usually can’t break it down until the day after because (the festival) runs so late. So, we rely on an outside security company so we’re not taxing our officers as much for those overnight times. We want them to be present mainly for the actual festival and events that are taking place.”

For as security measures with visitors entering the festival, Ferguson’s leadership takes caution against glass bottles and containers coming onto the premises as well as weapons, firearms, and fireworks. 

Another member of this year’s planning committee, Katelyn Haniford, joined the city of Ferguson’s staff as Recreation Specialist in October 2018 and hit the ground running as part of the team. 

“I took more of a role around December,” stated Haniford. “I was trying to figure out what would be the best way to make the festival bigger for our 125th anniversary. So, I thought of the inflatables for kids. I went through the catalog and we decided based on our budget what we could afford. We came up with a good number and we were able to run with it, especially having (Elite Event’s) staff cost because finding volunteers during the summer is a little bit harder. That was another reason we went with Elite Events – they do provide the staff to man each inflatable.”

Haniford shared that the Family Fun Zone will be set up to consist of five or six inflatables, a bungee trampoline, and several crafts and games for the kids all staffed by Elite Events. Haniford will be on hand to provide city administration oversight of the area while Elite Event facilitates the activities.

Haniford also played a major part in securing the petting zoo attraction for this year. 

“We’ve had it every year and we just wanted to keep it going,” she stated. “But I did want different types of animals than what we were used to having at the festival. So, we went with more of the farm unique animals. I found a petting zoo company who was able to offer those for us.”

Another component to most festivals is the balloon artist.

“You always want balloon artists; we make sure we have one there throughout the day,” states Haniford. “I know we’re going to have an influx of people at certain times. We have two balloon artists. They will overlap during peak time – when the Family Fun Zone is about to close and when the headliner is about to start. They will be there together for about an hour and then we’ll just have one throughout the rest of the evening.”

This year’s planning committee was fortunate in being able to use some vendors of past years as a blueprint for what was tried-and-true given their short time to plan. They had an even more fortunate experience in securing musical entertainment.

Musgrave shared, “It was easier to find our entertainment this year in my opinion because we also run our summer concert series which takes place at Plaza At 501. We were able to book talent for both the concert and the Fourth of July festival at the same time. So, on the backside I think that helped us because we were already reaching out to several bands for the concert series and we had bands who approached us wanting to be a part of it. ‘We ran out of space, but we can use you over here on the Fourth. That helped us being able to book 10 to 12 bands versus only eight like we had in years previous.”

Because Brian Owens is a well-known singer and resident of Ferguson, the committee made the choice for him to kick-off the entertainment at 12 p.m. in celebration of Ferguson’s 125-year anniversary of being incorporated as a city. Other entertainment acts scheduled are: Trixie Delight, That 80’s Band and Breakdown Shakedown.

Ferguson’s dual celebration at January Wabash Memorial Park is expected to start at 10 a.m. with its parade. Expected participants for the parade are: Ferguson’s city vehicles, representation from Ferguson-Florissant School District, Kinloch’s Fire Department will be represented by one of its fire trucks, the city of Dellwood will have its Dellwood Dragons – Drum and Bugle Corps, The Ferguson Eco Team, Taste of Ferguson, Boy Scouts troop, politicians and other local participants. The petting zoo and Family Fun Zone attractions will follow the parade and the fireworks display will complete the night’s festivities. For the specific schedule visit: https://www.fergusoncity.com/580/Ferguson-4th-of-July-Festival.

CUTLINE: Photos courtesy city of Ferguson The entire 2019 Ferguson Fourth of July Festival, including the parade, was planned for the first time by the city of Ferguson, which took over for an independent committee.