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Participation in the first-time half marathon Eagle Chase that starts off the celebration has organizers pretty excited.
Fire on the River co-chair John Ramthun of the 6:8 non-profit organization said among more than 200 registered runners, more than 30 of them are coming from 10 states, not including Wisconsin.
“Of the 175 Wisconsinites registered, only 75 are from the local or Madison area,” Ramthun said. “There are 100 coming from all around the state. Just the run is drawing people to the Sauk County area, and they’re looking for places to stay. The race has been a huge draw.”
He said the numbers are expected to rise with race-day registrations beginning at 7 a.m. that day.
The 13.1-mile run starts at the front of August Derleth Park, winds through Sauk City and Prairie du Sac, past the hospital to the canoe launch on River Road, back to Water Street and ends behind the Sauk Prairie Police station on Water Street.
Runners also can sign up for a 5K or 10K route.
At the same time the run is going on, the Sauk Prairie Kiwanis Club will host a pancake breakfast from 8-11 a.m.
The burgers, brats and hot dog stand opens at 11 a.m. right next to the beer garden and closes at midnight when the festival ends.
One of the food highlights is the return of the Flavors of Sauk Prairie from 4-7 p.m. featuring about 20 local establishments and private chefs looking for the most dollars after handing out samples of their recipes for $1.
The Flavors event is an opportunity to taste everything from chocolates to chicken, and tamales to taco chili for those who prefer their food spicy.
The beer garden opens at 8 a.m. and stays open until 11:30 p.m.
While the fireworks display will light up the night sky at dusk, there are plenty of stars on the ground throughout the entire day.
The event’s emcee is Rauel LaBreche, who also finds and hires the musical acts for Fire on the River.
LaBreche said just the scenery of the Wisconsin River as the backdrop to the main stage is an attraction in itself.
He said the music acts are fewer so they can play longer sets.
“The one thing I heard from people in the previous two years was we just wanted them to keep playing,” LaBreche said.
He said he wanted a wide variety of genres.
“Part of the goal is to have eclectic music and a broader spectrum of types of music,” LaBreche said. “We aren’t going to bring in Aerosmith. It’s more to highlight the stars of Sauk Prairie.”
The headliner for the evening is Madison-based Retrospecz with a repertoire that runs the gamut of the rock and roll alphabet with hits from AC/DC to ZZ Top. The band starts at 8:30 p.m. with a break for the fireworks display, and starting up again around 10 p.m.
Other musical performances include Corey Mathew Hart, a multi-award winning folk rock recording artist who takes the main stage beginning at 9 a.m.
At noon, the Kells, a four-piece group, will bring their authentic folk music of Ireland to Sauk City.
Dancers with the KP School of Dance of Prairie du Sac grace the stage for about an hour beginning at 2:30 p.m.
The Prairie Spies is an acoustic trio made up of local artists Curt Meine, Scott Weber and Jeff Gerencser in a mix of classic rock, rhythm and blues and folk. They play from 3:45-5:15 p.m.
Sam Ness, a 2015 graduate of Sauk Prairie High School who just returned from a trip to Europe will follow the Spies with a short set of original songs along with a few familiar favorites.
The Beth Kille Band follows Ness with her blend of rock, country, folk and blues that has garnered her 20 Madison Area Music Awards. She takes the stage from 5:30 until 8 p.m.
Much of the proceeds of Fire on the River go back into the production of the festival for the next year. Ramthun and his wife Sarah, who co-chair the 6:8 organization, took over the festival coordination in 2013, when it re-located from Veterans Memorial Park in Prairie du Sac to Sauk City’s publicly owned riverfront area.
6:8 is best known for its Feed My Starving Children food-packing weekend every October and other programs for youth and the elderly, are in their third year of organizing the event. The group also packs backpacks full of food and coupons to redeem for meat at local stores for underprivileged children four times per year when school lets out on break.
Fire on the River food and beer sales, proceeds from the Flavors of Sauk Prairie, and the silent auction helped fund 6:8’s programs.
“We want to serve the community by providing this event and the proceeds from the day we hope to invest back into the community year round,” Ramthun said.
Kim Lamoreaux email@example.com, 608-393-5777
The Eagle Chase Run/Walk is the newest event added for the Sauk Prairie area’s Fourth of July celebration. The July 2 event will get runners “fired up” with pyrotechnics provided by Sauk City’s own Curt Diehl of J & M Displays.
The slogan for the race is “I ran through fire.” I will start at Derleth Park at 7 a.m. with a 5K and 10K race, or the chance to take on a half marathon of 13.1 miles.
The route is a tour of the Sauk Prairie area, including the August Derleth river trail, the new Prairie Street recreation trail and adjacent hospital trail in Prairie du Sac, and rural River Road along the Wisconsin River.
The 6:8 group, best known for the annual “Feed My Starving Children” event, is again organizing what it calls “The Festival that Feeds,” a food drive that sends meals to third world countries.
“We’re most excited about having a half marathon ,” 6:8 co-director John Ramthun said. “That distance is rare for a run in our community. We’re hoping that will draw more people. We already have someone from Massachusetts signed up.”
Once the runners have left their mark, a pancake breakfast will be served up by members of the Sauk Prairie Kiwanis Club, a new addition to the day’s food line-up.
Spectators will have a prime seat as they eat breakfast by a portion of the run/walk route. “You won’t get a better breakfast view than that with the bluffs in the background,” Ramthun said.
There will also be live music going on during the breakfast and throughout the day.
Pizza Hut, offering pizza by the slice, will be another newcomer to the festival food menu, along with the usual brats, burgers and fries.
Late in the afternoon, the Flavors of Sauk Prairie returns with some tempting samples from some local culinary masters like Paul Beloungy of Paul’s Chocolates, Wyttenbach’s Meats, the No. 1 Kitchen Buffet, the Gym Bar and Grill, Leystra’s, LaMexicana and Green Acres, to name a few.
All day there will be games for young and old going on, including the popular water gun arena for anyone interested in briefly cooling off, and human foosball will return this year.
The festival offers an array of eclectic live music acts including the Kris Pickar Dance Company, the Irish music of the Kells, the local folk trio the Prairie Spies and the folk rock of Madison’s award-winning Beth Kille band. Rounding out the night will be with the classic rock of the Madison-based Retro Specs until — and after — the fireworks display.
Prairie du Sac’s own professional singer Lindsey Juarez will offer her rousing version of the national anthem to segue into what could be Sauk Prairie’s — and western Dane County’s — most spectacular display of pyrotechnics of the holiday.
Volunteers for the day in all areas are needed for preparations and set up beginning June 30 and July 1. The time slots for the beer garden of noon to 4 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. are full.
Sign up online at http://www.fireontheriver.org.
This year the Fourth falls on a Saturday and festival planners are reminding area residents to “Celebrate Local.”
The 12-hour celebration is coming together with a music and activity schedule that has something for every member of the family.
The event again will take place in Sauk City in the grassy open space along Water Street with the Wisconsin River as the backdrop to the main stage. The stage will move farther south behind the Riviera Bowl.
Madison-based folk rock artist Beth Kille returns, and the night’s headliner is Milwaukee-based band Genuine Drive, with a repertoire consisting of everything from Bad Company to the Band Perry.
The event’s music coordinator Rauel LaBreche said Genuine Drive performs music that is easy to dance to and will take the event into the late night hours following the fireworks display that starts at dusk.
“Genuine Draft plays everything,” LaBreche said. “Their song list has every kind of music there is.”
Kille will have just played the Summerfest Stage in Milwaukee a week before Fire on the River when she brings an acoustic set of original tunes and familiar folk tunes.
The Georgia Rae Family Band’s sisterly style of bluegrass comes to the Sauk Prairie area for the first time.
Georgia Rae Mussared is an Illinois Grand Champion Fiddler and the current Wisconsin Grand Champion Fiddler. Along with her musical companion Shawn Drake, the two are the current Minnesota and Colorado Twin Fiddle Champions.
Local performers will take the stage in a Stars of Sauk Prairie event that includes singer Lindsey Giese Juarez, who also serves as the executive director of the River Arts on Water art gallery in Prairie du Sac.
The Kells of Columbus, a four-piece Celtic acoustic group, will add an Irish flavor to the mix.
The entertainment kicks off with the Kris Pickar School of Dance.
Fire on the River committee co-chair John Ramthun said there will be some new activities for grown-ups added this year.
“We’re trying to spice up the adult area games,” Ramthun said. “There were a lot of activities for young families and kids, but we thought young adults had little to do.”
Those activities will include a human foosball game.
“People hang on to bars and face the opposing team,” Ramthun said. “The rows can slide left or right.”
An all-day volleyball tournament will culminate in a championship game under the lights after the fireworks, and there will be a bean bag toss.
Bernie and Susan Poff of Bernie’s Signs will host another mural painting project that was a big hit at last year’s event.
Sauk Prairie’s Eagle mascot may be asking for a name this year in the form of a contest in which participants suggest a good name for him.
Ramthun said the committee has coordinated events to begin at noon, following the Witwen Parade that begins at 10 a.m. that same day.
A number of volunteer teams are scheduled to work at the event, but the committee is still accepting teams from area businesses.
Kim Lamoreaux firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-393-5777
Fire on the River has a new location on the Sauk City Riverwalk and will be an entire day — starting at 9 a.m. to midnight — full of activities, live music, a beer tent and a taste of Sauk Prairie area food vendors.
Since 1983 the fireworks have been held at the Prairie du Sac VFW Park. But this year the 6:8 – Making Service Personal group
stepped up to organize the activities and supply volunteers to work at the event.
The group is best know for its effort to coordinate the Feed My Starving Children food packaging event and goes on mission trips to other states to help build homes for the less fortunate.
“It’s been a thrill ride and awesome to see all this come together,” Ramthun said. “Once we got our heads together, ideas were flowing and we were putting together a full-day event that’s family friendly and that spotlights the best of Sauk Prairie.”
Ramthun said he is encouraging festival goers to park at the Sauk Prairie High School parking lot and take the shuttle into downtown Sauk City. He said families can set up their lawn chairs and blankets on the green space along the Riverwalk early and spend the day at the festival up to and beyond the fireworks display.
The fireworks display will be put on by J & M Displays of Iowa, the same company that puts on the fireworks display for Rhythm and Booms in Madison.
Curt Diehl of Sauk City has worked for that company for about 30 years and spent many of those years handling the pyrotechnics for the Sauk Prairie area display.
He said this is the first year the fireworks for Fire on the River will be launched from barges on the water.
“This show has always been shot on land, so the unique thing is it will be shot on the river,” Diehl said. “I do numerous shows around the state where we shoot off of barges, but never on rivers. We’ve got moving current to take into consideration and the water level.”
Diehl said that’s what will make this year’s event more special.
“I’m excited about the new venue,” Diehl said. “We want to make it grow and become a community event. This has always been something people talked about and looked forward to as soon as it got to be nice weather.”
There are numerous activities and attractions planned prior to the grand finale of fireworks.
A total of 12 music and dance acts are planned, including musician and songwriter Beth Kille, a rock, folk and blues artist who is a 19-time Madison Area Music Association award winner; musician and songwriter Corey Hart, winner of the 2012 MAMA awards for best male vocalist and for best Folk/Americana album; the Krause Family band playing classic bluegrass and folk favorites; The Jacks folk trio including Sauk Prairie middle school principal Ted Harter; the Sauk Prairie School District’s Sauk Prairie Music ensemble, Lindsey Giese, the dueling pianos of Rory Bolton and Matt Brennan; The River Hills Worship Band; Sauk Prairie’s own Bowtones will sing “The Star Spangled Banner,” and the rock and country 5th Gear band, a multi-award winning group that includes 2012 “Best Local Group” by 96.3 Star Country Music Awards, will perform.
Dance performances include AJ Juarez, who is married to Lindsey Giese, and Kris Pickar’s School of Dance will perform. An improvisational team also will entertain.
Kids can join a water gun fight, known local figures and pastors will be the victims of a dunk tank and for the kids who are allowed to stay up late that night, the Disney movie “Ratatouille” will be shown on the side of a Fuch’s Trucking semi following the fireworks.
Local artists will be busy painting in the open air working on pieces that will be available through a silent auction.
Festival goers of all ages will be asked to participate in a mural creation in a paint-by-numbers image created by artists Bernie and Sue Poff of Polliwog Studios.
“We’ll have a big paint party,” Bernie Poff said. “People can pick up a paint brush and paint a small portion so they can say they were part of it.
Ramthun said people should come to the event hungry for the “Flavors of Sauk Prairie,” where for a small donation, festival goers can sample foods from just about every food business in the Sauk Prairie area.
Even after the fireworks display, the night goes on with the 5th Gear band starting up at 10 p.m.
Other area Independence Day celebrations include the Witwen Fourth of July Parade and Barbecue on July 4 beginning at 10:30 a.m., at the intersection of County Roads E and O, in Witwen, and the Merrimac Fire Department fireworks show at S7116 Bluff Road in Merrimac on July 5 at dusk. Gates open at 5 p.m. Cost is $3 per vehicle.
The Sauk Prairie Fire on the River made it into a Discover Wisconsin episode!!
With a fresh location and a new group of planners, the Fourth of July Fire on the River celebration is being re-invented.