Cities, groups plan Independence Day events today-Saturday

Several local celebrations have been scheduled to mark Independence Day.

Arkansas Health Center has planned a celebration for today. Center officials are predicting it will be "the best fireworks show this side of the Arkansas River."
Activities are planned from 5 to 10 p.m. at the center's campus, 6701 U.S. 67 in Haskell.
Jennifer Kelly-Santee, the center's special events coordinator, said the celebration will offer "great bands, great carnival food, free fun for kids and awesome entertainment."
"All monies raised from vendors and donations will benefit the residents through Friends of Arkansas Health Center, the nonprofit agency that provides assistance to residents," she said.
Scheduled to perform at the event are bands Exit 123 and Alize. In addition, two Miss Arkansas contestants will be participating.
Miss Greater Hot Springs, Brandi Hull, will present a twirling routine, and Miss Ouachita River, Abby Lindsey, will sing the national anthem at the start of the observance.
The city of Bryant's Independence Day celebration is set for Wednesday-Thursday at Bishop Park. Gates open at 3 p.m. each day, and activities start at 4 p.m.
The event is free, but parking will cost $10 per vehicle. Live entertainment will be offered both days of the event.
Entertainers scheduled are Jason Campbell & Singletree at 6 p.m. Wednesday; country artist Mark Chesnutt at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday: Michael Shipp on Thursday at a time to be announced; and Andru Phillips at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Festivities will include carnival rides, bounce houses, barrel train rides, fair foods and a free water cool-off area, according to the parks department.
The Bishop Park swimming pool and splash pad will be available for use during the event. A fishing derby and fishing obstacle course also will be available for all ages.
Also scheduled is the annual "Que'n In the Park" barbecue contest, benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Bryant, Toy Troopers and the Drew Melton Scholarship Fund.
Bryant Fest reportedly will conclude with a "fireworks extravaganza out of this world."
While the official city of Benton's official fireworks display for the year won't be taking place until Labor Day weekend, the Benton skies will feature a lighting extravaganza on Thursday.
Alderman Kerry Murphy independently raised donations to fund a Fourth of July light show at the Saline County Fairgrounds.
"I asked the Saline County Fair Board to allow us to do this and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson helped us get a grant from the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District to apply toward the cost," Murphy said.
Murphy said that grant, plus additional donations from the Saline County Republican Party, the Saline County Tea Party and others, totaled $8,700 to pay for the display.
"This is not just for Benton," Murphy said. "This is for all of Saline County."
He said he hopes to enhance the show with patriotic music.
"Everybody is welcome to come to this," he said. "The show is set for 9 p.m. and will last about 15 minutes."
The highlight of the Salem Fire Department's Fourth of July event on Thursday at the Salem Ball Park will be a fireworks display conducted at 8 p.m.
Activities will get under way at 4 p.m. and will include activities for children as well as adults.
A concessions stand will be open for people to purchase drinks and snow cones, and free hot dogs and watermelon will be served.
For a $5 wristband, children will be entitled to unlimited play in the kids' area, which will include sack races, a big slide, a bean bag toss, bobbing for apples, face-painting, a bounce house and other games.
A dunking booth will offer opportunities to dunk a firefighter or other county official. The cost is $5 for three shots.
All of the events are open to people throughout Saline County and visitors to the area, a fire department spokesperson said.
Lake Norrell residents will be holding the area's 25th Independence Day celebration on Saturday. Highlights of the celebration are a boat parade and fireworks show.
The parade will take place at noon. Participants are invited to decorate a boat using a patriotic theme or another theme of their choosing.
Participation is free to private individuals. Trophies will be awarded for the best boats in both the themed and patriotic categories.
The fireworks will be shot over the lake around 8:45 p.m. and may be viewed on either the shoreline at the landing, or on the lake from a boat.
For more information about the parade or to pick up registration forms to participate, contact Jamie Reed at 326-8125; stop by Dock 38 at Lake Norrell; or call Saline County Justice of the Peace Barbara Howell at 681-7577.
Reigning over the festivities will be Terry and Betty Saugey, who were named Lake Norrell Man and Woman of the Year at an earlier fundraiser.
The Saugeys have volunteered their time helping their son and daughter-in-law, John and Phyllis Saugey, with live auctions held in the community for the past 10 years. The Saugeys also have financed the building of a new pavilion at the Lake Norrell Community Center.
The couple was honored at the 13th annual fireworks fundraiser with a trohpy and gift. Their names will be added to a plaque that hangs in the Lake Norrell Community Center.