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Happy Birthday America

The City of Fairfax to welcome a special guest and sponsor to its 41st annual Independence Day celebration.

Newcomers and old-timers in the City of Fairfax have plenty to look forward to at this year’s Fourth of July celebration: a big new sponsor and the governor will be spicing things up at the already hot annual tradition.

The Virginia Lottery has joined in as a sponsor of the city’s parade and fireworks show, adding $15,000 to the fireworks budget.

"We’ve had a lot of in-kind sponsors in the past, but never really cash dollars," said Mike McCarty, the city’s parks and recreation director. "So this is huge for us."

Leslie Herman, the city’s special events coordinator, said one way the city is incorporating the extra cash into the show is by choreographing the fireworks to patriotic music. The music varies from Neil Diamond and Bruce Springsteen, to Carrie Underwood and "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"It’s a mix of stuff that everyone can relate to," Herman said, and there might be some other surprises during the show, too.

"We strive to put on a really good fireworks show," said Herman. "Most folks say its like one big grand finale."

THE VIRGINIA LOTTERY and the City of Fairfax want this year’s Independence Day celebration to reflect the importance of education in the community and one way they’re doing it is through the honorary grand marshals: City Schools Superintendent Ann Monday and the principals from each of the city’s four public schools. Herman said she thinks one reason the Virginia Lottery decided to come on board as a sponsor is because of the parade’s theme, "raising future leaders," created by a first-grade student at St. Leo the Great Catholic School.

"I think that’s one of the reasons [the Virginia Lottery] was so interested … their motto is ‘helping Virginia’s [public] schools,’" she said.

As for Gov. Tim Kaine (D) joining in on the parade this year, Mayor Robert Lederer isn’t surprised.

"The Fairfax City Fourth of July parade is one of the biggest and best in the state and the region," he said. "We’ve probably had more parades with governors than not."

Kaine will likely arrive toward the tail end of the parade, since he’s also making an appearance at the Dale City parade, which is about 20 miles away and begins at the same time. Lederer said having the governor there just reinforces how extraordinary the city’s parade is every year.

"The parade is such a spectacular event from top to bottom," said Lederer. "This is the one event of the year, since I was a kid, that I personally enjoy more than anything else. It’s just a fun, good old-fashioned small-town celebration that I think we all look forward to."

IN ADDITION to the parade of bands, floats, dignitaries and performers, the city also provides special activities throughout the afternoon. A firefighter competition takes place at the firehouse, 4081 University Drive, just after the parade, at 12:30 p.m. Food and beverages will be available at the family event. Also back this year is the "cops and kids on bikes," which Herman is excited about. There will be ice cream sundaes and bike rides available for that event, which is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Van Dyck Park, 3730 Old Lee Highway.

The Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center, 10209 Main St., and the Ratcliffe-Allison House, 10386 Main St., will also be open during the day. The museum is hosting an open house, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and tours will be available at the Ratcliffe house, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.