Florence gears up for annual Labor Day weekend

Now in its 72nd year, organizers of this year?s Labor Day Celebration are looking forward to hundreds of families and friends taking part in the three-day event starting Saturday and continuing until early afternoon Monday.

Kicking off the festivities at 8 a.m. Saturday will be a city-wide garage sale. Maps will be available at Cottonwood Valley Bank, 417 Main St.

After browsing for treasures at the garage sales, the mayor and other organizers hope to see hundreds of people enjoying the almost 30 different shows, lunches, contests and drawings that will fill the weekend.

John Swarm, organizer of the Soap Box Derby at 10 a.m. Saturday, hopes children will come and participate regardless of whether they have a car.

Eight cars have been purchased over the past two years and local volunteers have helped assemble and paint them.

?This way all children can participate if they want to,? he said. ?This year we will have the eight cars, a newly painted cool looking ramp, plus I am hoping to have enough help from the fire department people and others to make it as smooth as we can hope for.?

The mayor of Florence is also welcoming people to the event.

?We are inviting everyone in Marion County to enjoy Florence over the Labor Day weekend,? said Mayor Mary Shipman.

?We are expecting a fantastic crowd again this year,? she said, ?and with Prairie Rose Rangers and so many other good entertainers, there?s something for everyone.?

Prairie Rose Rangers will perform music from the old west at 7 p.m. Sunday on the main stage on Main Street.

A few other highlights, she said, include the Bubble Man, who is part science educator at the Wichita Omnisphere and Science Center and part comedian.

Ron Tibbetts, alias the Bubble Man, develops his show featuring a giant bubble-making machine, yielding 10-foot-high bubbles.

He will be entertaining at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the ambulance building on Main Street.

A street dance on Main Street is scheduled from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday featuring the Callahan Band. Jason Callahan, who is from Marion County, performs from classic-country Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard to more contemporary country.

Twilah Williams of Florence is this year?s chairperson for the Labor Day Celebration.

?Sunday has a few different features to include the Bubble Man and the hog roast, which will be in the new pavilion at Veteran?s Park on Fourth and Main Streets,? she said.

The hog roast begins at 4:30 p.m.

Also new this year is the two musical groups Sunday and an ice cream social between them.

Prior to Prairie Rose Rangers, Williams said, will be Hearts 4 Him, featuring Dave Deutschendorf, who taught in the Marion-Florence School District during the 1960s.

?Dave was also John Denver?s uncle,? she said. Hearts 4 Him is a men?s vocal ensemble.

Rep. Bob Brookens will announce the parade at 11 a.m. Monday on Main Street. The car show starts at noon Sunday, which is different than in years past when it was on Monday.

As with any weekend festival, Florence hasn?t forgotten the children, with the soap box derby and mutton bustin? at 3:30 p.m. Sunday activities will continue for children at 2 p.m. with the Kid?s Bike Decorating Workshop and sidewalk chalk art at 3 p.m. Monday will feature children?s games and turtle races at 1 p.m.

Another favorite, Williams said, will be the county-wide FFA Barnyard Olympics featuring FFA groups from Peabody, Hillsboro and other schools.

?Every year the Barnyard Olympics features different contests, bucking bales and more,? she said.

?When people buy a $5 button it will also give them a chance to win $137, which is how long Florence has been a city.?

Buttons are good for all three days, including the dance and musical shows.

?We started in February organizing the Labor Day weekend,? Williams said. ?As many as 20 people carried through in getting the event together.

?I am very happy with the help and all of us on the committee are looking forward to this weekend,? she added.

Williams said the committee is expecting between 1,500 to 2,000 people in Florence for the event.

?It should stay pretty busy until the beef drawing at 2:30 p.m. Monday,? she said.

Organizers urge everyone to check times and details by visiting the Web site at florenceks.com.

For updated event and rain delay information during the Labor Day weekend, call 620-382-7112.

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