AGN’s July 4 celebration moves downtown, will have twice the fireworks
Amarillo Globe-News Publisher Les Simpson, left, announces an all-new Fourth of July celebration for 2017 on Wednesday during a news conference at Happy State Bank. (Michael Schumacher / Amarillo Globe-News)
Amarillo’s annual Fourth of July celebration has a new home, a new date and a new name. And it’s going to be bigger. Much bigger.
After 13 years of launching fireworks from John S. Stiff Memorial Park and 62 years of hosting the event, the Amarillo Globe-News is moving the festival downtown and to the weekend preceding the holiday.
Its new title: “Amarillo’s Route 66 Celebration.”
The Globe-News and the event’s other sponsors are doubling the size of the fireworks display, expanding their entertainment options and coordinating them to coincide with the Route 66: the Heart of Amarillo 2017 Festival, which will be held the same Saturday and flood Southwest Sixth Avenue with people honoring the city’s heritage and connection to the creation of the highway system.
Amarillo Globe-News Publisher Les Simpson said as many as 40,000 people are expected downtown for the new festival.
Transportation will be provided between the two Route 66 events as well as between remote parking locations and downtown.
Fireworks will launch on Saturday, July 1, at 9:45 p.m. from the corner of East Eighth Avenue and South Johnson Street after a day of family entertainment, food trucks and live music.
Simpson began planning the newspaper’s 63rd annual fireworks show in August. Hosting the event the weekend before July 4 allows more people to enjoy all that Amarillo has to offer, then to spend the holiday at Canadian’s annual celebration or Canyon’s parade, he said.
“Hopefully, it’s something where the entire family can come together,” Simpson said. “We want an event where people of all ages can come and have fun. Hopefully, people will wake up the next morning and say, ‘Our family had a really good time. There was something for everybody to do.’”
Globe-News publisher Les Simpson on the decision to move this year's fireworks show from John Stiff Park to downtown Amarillo: pic.twitter.com/S3nSEF8H7e
The weekend will kick off Friday night with a concert featuring Casey Donahew Band at The Big Texan’s new Starlight Ranch amphitheater. The band’s most recent album, “All Night Party,” peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart in September behind Dolly Parton and Chris Stapleton’s release.
In its first year downtown and with its new emphasis, the event will likely draw patrons primarily from the Texas Panhandle’s estimated 430,000 residents, said Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council vice president Dan Quandt.
“People are going to be looking to make plans for what to do on this big holiday weekend, and Amarillo has the answer,” Quandt said.
Simpson has larger plans for the event’s future.
Highlighting Route 66 is intended to draw visitors from outside the region in future years, he said.
Simpson said the Globe-News has learned much from what people are looking for from the event during its years as host, and it is pivoting to meet those wants and needs.
Outgoing Mayor Paul Harpole said the downtown location, packed schedule and expanded offerings required a lot of precise planning and that he is eager to see the all-new celebration.
“I don’t think you can compare it at all to what we’ve had, although they’ve been great,” Harpole said. “We’ve got so much going on during the day with this, I think it’ll be a whole new event.”
Moving the party to the weekend before the holiday. Expanding entertainment options to include the Friday night concert as well as more acts on Saturday.
All of the changes are expected to enhance the experience, draw bigger crowds from a larger area and expose people to all that downtown Amarillo has to offer in a family-friendly atmosphere, Simpson said.
“We’re not just honoring American independence — we’re honoring the unique gifts Amarillo has along Route 66 and with its revitalized downtown area,” Quandt said.
Amarillo’s Route 66 Celebration Schedule
7:30 p.m.: Casey Donahew Band concert at Starlight Ranch, 1415 Sunrise Drive. The weekend kicks off with a concert by the Casey Donahew Band at the Big Texan’s new Starlight Ranch. There will be an admission fee. For more details visit bigtexan.com/starlight-ranch
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Amarillo Community Market on Polk Street: The market, which will run every Saturday during the summer, hosts live music and a variety of vendors selling vegetables, baked goods, jellies, arts and crafts and more. For more information, visit amarillocommunitymarket.com
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Route 66: The Heart of Amarillo 2017 Festival, Sixth Ave. The Historic 6th Street on Route 66 Association’s annual event features a car show, swap meet, antique market, art show and an opportunity to shop and dine along the original Route 66. There also will be a dunking booth, smash-a-car, scavenger hunt, ‘50s and ‘60s dress up and much more. The event includes music throughout the day and the announcement of the Car Show Awards at 3 p.m. Proceeds will benefit 6th Street Association, Heal the City Clinic and San Jacinto Elementary School. For more information, visit amarillo66.com
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Transportation between Historic Sixth and Downtown Amarillo. An early 1900s-model San Francisco trolley will provide complimentary transportation between Sixth Avenue and Downtown Amarillo. More details, including a map of the pickup and drop-off locations, will be released June 1.
Noon to 7 p.m.: Kids City on the Potter County courthouse lawn. An afternoon of performances, entertainment, arts, crafts and plenty of fun things for kids to do will take place in the evening. Tommy the Hacker will emcee and play music while a balloon artist and juggler stroll through the crowd. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Kidsfest, an annual event that provides free backpacks and school supplies to students.
Noon. to 11 p.m.: Food Truck Alley along fifth and seventh streets between Taylor and Fillmore streets. An array of food trucks and other merchandise vendors will be selling throughout the day and after the fireworks show. A list of trucks has yet to be released.
4 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Hospitality centers along fifth and seventh streets between Fillmore and Pierce streets (location subject to change). Adult beverages will be available for purchase throughout the evening, though they must be consumed in designated hospitality areas.
6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.: The Toot’n Totum Main Stage. The Toot’n Totum Main Stage will be located in the heart of downtown Amarillo on the block south of the Potter County Courthouse and will feature an evening of an array of music, including:
Jack C’ryver and the Rock n Roll Cowboys: A five-piece rocking country band.
A-Town Rockers: A six-piece band, featuring two vocalists, that plays everything from ‘70s classics to the current hits.
Esquire Jazz Big Band: A 20-piece big band orchestra comprised of the top musicians in the Amarillo area will be performing thanks to a sponsorship by Esquire Jazz Club, opening late summer 2017 at 626 S. Polk St. in Downtown Amarillo.
Amarillo Mass Community Choir: Dan Baker, First Baptist Church minister of music, leads a choir comprised of members from area churches, including First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Central Church of Christ and Polk Street Methodist Church. The choir will perform a mix of patriotic and spiritual music.
9:45 p.m. (approximate): Fireworks show: Amarillo’s Route 66 Celebration fireworks presentation will be twice the size of previous July 4 fireworks shows.
Off-site parking and transportation will be available at Amarillo College from 4 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. Parking will be allowed on Lot 1 on the northwest corner of AC’s Washington Street campus. Buses will run to downtown and back, with the last bus leaving at approximately 11:30 p.m. More details, including a map of the pickup and drop off locations, will be released June 1.
The City of Amarillo parking garage will be open and available for paid parking. Other downtown parking will be available in public and private parking lots. Attendees should park only in areas marked by Amarillo’s Route 66 Celebration signs. A detailed parking map will be released June 1 to the media and on the event website, amarillocelebratesroute66.com
On the evening of July 1, the best way to check for any schedule changes is by visiting amarillo.com, the website of the Amarillo Globe-News. In case of cancellations, the firework show will be moved to Sunday, July 2, at 9:45 p.m.