Nationally known musical performers, a parade with two marching bands, spectacular fireworks, marvelous mutts and plenty of carnival rides and food highlight the O’Fallon Heritage and Freedom Fest July 2-4 at the Ozzie Smith Sports Complex.
The free festival, in its 32nd year, keeps growing and improving, particularly because of the national acts and the fireworks.
“We have an absolutely amazing lineup this year, and I think we’re going to have a really great crowd because of it,” said Festival Coordinator Megan Steinmann. “They’re all really great entertainers, and they’re all relevant. A lot of people are really excited that they can come out and see bands that they hear on the radio every day, and they don’t have to pay anything for it.”
July 3 features country music, with local group Borderline kick starting the tunes 5-6 p.m. on the main stage.
“They are a really popular local country band,” Steinmann said. “We’ve had them do some of our events before and they’re really fun guys. They play all kinds of country music that any country fan would recognize.”
They are followed by recording artist Jamie O’Neal, a singer-songwriter who will perform from 6:30-7:45 p.m. Her debut album, “Shiver,” produced consecutive No. 1 hits in “There Is No Arizona” and “When I Think About Angels,” both of which were nominated for Grammy awards.
“She was really popular in, I believe, like the late ‘90s,” Steinmann said. “She has really fun, upbeat songs. She had several Top 10 hits that people are going to recognize.”
David Nail, who earned a 2011 Grammy nomination for his song “Turning Home,” headlines 8:45-10:15 p.m.
“David Nail is really, recently, kind of exploding in country music,” Steinmann said. “He’s from Missouri. He’s a huge Cardinals fan and Mizzou fan. He loves everything about Missouri, so it’s good to have a native here for Fourth of July. Every song he’s been releasing lately has consistently been Top 10, and it just gets played over and over and over again on the radio. So we have a lot of people who are interested in coming out and seeing his show.”
The rockers take over July 4, beginning with two sets from local group Fat Pocket from 2:15-3:15 p.m. and 3:45 to 4:45 p.m.
“They are super fun,” Steinmann said. “They play kind of a mix of pop and funky music. They’re just a blast.”
Carolina Liar, whose 2008 album “Coming to Terms” was raved about by Rolling Stone magazine, plays 5:45-7 p.m. That initial release featured the hits “”I’m Not Over” and “Show Me What I’m Looking For.”
The band has performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Ellen Degeneres Show and played themselves on an episode of 90210. They also appeared on American Idol, The Hills, The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl.
“A few years ago they became really popular,” Steinmann said.
Vertical Horizon, whose 1999 album “Everything You Want” went double platinum, headlines 8-9:30 p.m. The singles “Save Me From Myself” and “The Lucky Ones,” from their 2009 album “Burning the Days,” both got a lot of radio play.
“A lot of people are going to recognize the first hits that they came out with, and then some of their newer stuff is just starting to come up on the radio again,” Steinmann said.
The Jena “Dusty” Mielke Fireworks Spectacular will follow the headliners each night, with 15 minutes of pyrotechnic pizzazz starting at 10:15 p.m. July 3 and a 25-minute display beginning at 9:30 p.m. July 4. The fireworks, sponsored by OneMain Financial, are named in memory of long-time Heritage and Freedom Festival coordinator Mielke, who passed away in 2009.
Carnival rides and Midway games and food get the party started 5-10 p.m. July 2, which is Family Night. Unlimited ride wristbands can be purchased for $20, and the rides will include a Ferris wheel, The Scrambler, huge slides, a fun house and more. There will be rides appropriate for all ages, from young children to adults.
Ticket booths will be located throughout the festival grounds. A 50 percent discount on ride tickets is available through June 30 at the and the office. Call 636-379-5614 for details.
The carnival food includes burgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, cotton candy and such nouveau fair fare as chocolate-covered bacon and deep-fried Oreos and cheesecake. Beverages include soda, water, lemonade, smoothies and Miller beer products.
The Marvelous Mutts, a group of dogs adopted from animal shelters, will defy gravity as they chase after balls and Frisbees and negotiate obstacle courses. They will strut their stuff during shows at 6, 7:30 and 9 p.m. July 3 and 3, 5 and 7 p.m. July 4.
“It’s really kind of fun,” she said. “After each show they come out and visit with the kids. The kids can talk with the trainer and pet the dogs and find out how they learned to do everything they do.”
Another must-see is the parade, which starts at 9:30 a.m. July 4 at Third and Main streets, heads north on Main, then east on Tom Ginnever Avenue and ends at T.R. Hughes Ballpark. The parade has over 90 entries, including the marching bands from Fort Zumwalt North High School and Orchard Farm High School, plus vintage cars, elaborate floats, cheer and dance groups, scout troops and more.
A free kids’ area with giant inflatables, crafts, a science booth, face painting, a large sandbox and even a chance to learn to hula hoop will be open 5-9:45 p.m. July 3 and noon to 9 p.m. July 4.
“They can come out and make a whole day of it and not have to spend any money,” Steinmann said.
While rides and concessions do cost money, the music, other shows and activities are all free.
“People really love the event, and they love that they can come out and not have to spend a lot of money,” Steinmann said.
The festival is open 5-10 p.m. July 2, 5-11 p.m. July 3 and noon to 10 p.m. July 4. It is located at the Ozzie Smith Sports Complex. There are two parking options -- $5 for premium parking at T.R. Hughes Stadium west lot, or free parking with regular shuttles to the festival grounds at and .