A guide to the Champaign County Freedom Celebration and other area celebrations.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, namely parades, fun runs — and don't forget the fireworks.
The Champaign County Freedom Celebration is the perfect union of these components.
Start the day with a 5K, settle down to watch the parade, take a break for a refreshing cold beverage, listen to the music and make sure to be there at sunset for sounds, flashes of light and the familiar smell of fireworks.
Here's a guide to this year's celebration, courtesy staff writer Paul Wood:
Bill Dey, an organizer of the Champaign County Freedom Celebration's 5K and Youth Run, said a new start time of 9 a.m. is a "much more appealing time to run."
Another advance is chip timing, which he said seems to be working well, and should prevent confusion at the finish line.
It's also the first year for online registration, Dey said.
The schedule: 7:30 a.m., Race Day registration opens; 8:30 a.m., Youth Run; and 9:05 a.m., 5K Race/Walk.
The registration, staging and parking location is Bielfeldt Athletic Building, 1700 S. Fourth St., C.
The race starts on Kirby Avenue between First and Fourth streets across from Memorial Stadium and finishes about halfway between Florida and St. Mary's Road.
For the 5K Race/Walk, there's a $25 fee for race-day entries.
The Youth Run is free, but there's no T-shirt.
More information is at july4th.net/5k-race-walk 
The parade is bigger than ever, but the floats that used to dominate the Champaign County Freedom Celebrations have dwindled to less than two dozen.
Ginny Schlorff would like to change that. She has a lifelong love for the parade, which her grandfather was instrumental in starting more than 60 years ago.
"A few years back, the floats started dwindling," she says. "A lot of businesses used to make floats. The committee is trying to increase that; we're making three floats ourselves out at MTD."
Also like last year, the parade starts earlier than it used to — now at 11:05 a.m.
Schlorff said the earlier time helps with the heat, which has reached a 100-degree high in recent years. It also makes for an earlier 5K race time.
"The change keeps people from keeling over," she says.
The parade begins near First Street and Kirby Avenue, then heads east on Kirby (it turns into Florida Avenue) to Lincoln Avenue, then north on Lincoln toward Green Street. The participants then turn onto Illinois Street to disperse toward Goodwin Avenue.
High school bands from as far as Georgetown-Ridge Farm also perform in the event, which helps with their fundraising, Schlorff said.
If you look up, you'll see Sesame Street characters Ernie and Cookie Monster. Bert was not available for comment.
"We'll also be building a special Sesame Street-themed float to go in connection with those two balloons," said Colin DeCair, who is doing publicity for the event.
"People either love the parade or the fireworks — for me it's the parade," Schlorff said.
The celebration committee has potty houses and vendors throughout the parade route.
More information is at july4th.net/parade .
You don't have to worry about taxation without representation this July 4.
All the $39,000 for fireworks is donated, none from municipal coffers.
The evening program starts at 7 p.m. with musical entertainment on the main stage along Kirby Avenue between First and Oak streets.
There will also be children's activities (bounce house/inflatables). Parking is available in the State Farm Center and Activities and Recreation Center parking lots.
At 9:10 p.m, expect a lot of bangs. (Buy ear muffs for your poor dog).
Chris Bell, president of the Freedom Celebration board, said the board has never stopped working since last July 4 to make this year a blast.
Good viewing is at University of Illinois parking lot E14, Stadium Terrace and Neil Street from Kirby Avenue to St. Mary's Road.
More information is at july4th.net/evening-program .
By the numbers
1776: Colonies declare independence from King George III's England.
1950: Champaign initiates forerunner of Freedom Festival.
700: Number of participants expected for the 5K, which steps off before the parade.
3: Macy's-style balloons that have been entered in Friday's parade.
1994: Year the 5K Race/Walk was born. A youth run was added in 1999.
90: Total parade entries so far; 20 of those are floats. More floats would be welcome.
11:05: New earlier start for the parade Friday morning, to beat the heat.
7: Start time for the musical entertainment on the main stage — along Kirby Avenue.
9:10: Time the fireworks begin Friday night, wrapping up the Freedom Celebration.
When and where to catch the action this week around the area:
Arcola: Dusk, Moore Park
Downs: Dusk, Dooley Park Pavilion
Hoopeston: Dusk, Youth soccer field on South 6th Avenue
Monticello: 9 p.m., Lodge Park
Rantoul: Dusk, Rantoul Airport
Bement: Dark, Bement and Piatt County Forest Preserve
Champaign: 9:10 p.m., west side of State Farm Center
Charleston: Dusk, Coles County Airport
Cissna Park: Dusk, Kellart Lake
Clinton: Dusk, Clinton High School
Farmer City: Dark (after auto racing), Farmer City Fairgrounds
Georgetown: Dusk, Georgetown Fairgrounds
Homer: Dusk, Village Park
Mahomet: 9 p.m., Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve
Oakwood: Dusk, Village Park
Onarga: Dusk, Durham Park
Paxton: Dusk, Memorial Field
Rossville: Dusk, Christman Park
Sibley: Dusk, Over Lake Sibley
Sullivan: Dusk, Wyman Park
Danville: About 9:30 p.m., Danville Boat Club
Fisher: Dusk, Fisher Fairgrounds
Oakland: Dusk, Norton Knolls Golf Course
Potomac: Dusk, Potomac Grade School
Tuscola: Dusk, Ervin Park
Watseka: Dusk, East side of city
Monticello Freedom Celebration. July 3, Monticello. Several community events, including an air show at Eli Field, featuring a variety of model airplanes. Fireworks Train (tickets sold in advance). Parking available at Lodge Park, Trailblazers or go to Kratz Road (behind school) and ride the bus. Inflatables, pony camel rides, children's games, stagecoach rides and food vendors starting at 4 p.m.; entertainment, 5 to 9 p.m.; fireworks display, 9 p.m. cityofmonticello.net.
Rantoul's Firecracker Classic. 5:30 to 11 p.m. July 3, Rantoul Airport. Freedom Celebration features music with the Cover 4 band kicking off the night, followed by the Black N Blue Band with country, classics and favorites; activities for the kids include giant inflatables, a kids' zone and laser tag, and rides in the monster truck, The Raminator; Rockin' the Runway, a 5K run/walk, at 7 p.m. Fireworks at dusk. The Fourth of July parade at 9 a.m. July 4. 893-3323, rantoulchamber.com/4th-of-july-activities/.
Red, White & Blue Days. July 3 and 4, Morton Park, Charleston. Vendors open, 3 p.m.; music by Levi Riggs, 6:30 p.m., and Tracy Lawrence, 8 p.m.; crowning of Little Mr. and Miss Firecracker, July 3. On July 4, 4-mile run/walk (Habitat for Humanity), 7:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. registration); Chalk In — Coles County Arts Council, 9:30 a.m. to noon; foam pit and activities (all day); inflatable games, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; all-you-can-eat ice cream, $2, all day; parade, 1 p.m.; bell-ringing ceremony, 2:15 p.m.; music by The Boat Drunks, 2:30 p.m., all at Morton Park. All performances free. Fireworks at dusk at Coles County Airport. charlestonredwhiteandblue.com.
Fireworks Train. Trains depart at 8 p.m. July 3, from Wabash Depot, downtown Monticello. Ride the train to watch the fireworks. Bring lawn chairs, blankets and insect repellent. The concession stand will have sandwiches, snacks and soft drinks. Children under 2 ride free with a paying adult. Reservations advised. 762-9011, mrym.org.
Champaign County Freedom Celebration. Youth run and 5K race/walk, 9:05 a.m. July 4, starting on east side of State Farm Center, Champaign; registration, 7:30 a.m. Parade at 11:05 a.m., near First Street and Florida Avenue, continues east on Florida to Lincoln Avenue, then proceeds north on Lincoln to California Avenue. Entertainment at 7 p.m., west side of State Farm Center. Fireworks at 9:15 p.m., launched from UI parking lot E14, west of State Farm Center. july4th.net.
Fourth of July Celebration in Sibley. 9 a.m. July 4, Sibley Lake and Park, and downtown. Car and motorcycle show, 9 a.m. to noon at park, downtown; 309-826-5053. Parade, 1 p.m. (registration, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Township Building). Corn hole/bags contest, 2:30 p.m., Old School Park. Activities at Sibley Lake: children's catch-and-release fishing derby and a water ball contest, 9 a.m.; food stands throughout the day, pavilion; free, old-fashioned children's games, 2:30 p.m.; bingo after parade, pavilion; face painting, interactive inflatables and Fun Believable Balloons, 4 to 7 p.m., park; Cardboard Boat Regatta boat races, 4 p.m., with registration, 3 to 3:30 p.m.; parade winners and raffle prize winners announced, 2014 royalty introduced, 6 p.m.; free concert by Back Paiges, 6:30 p.m.; fireworks at dusk over the lake. Rain date for fireworks, July 5. sibleyfourthofjuly@yahoocom, 745-2549, sibleyfourthofjuly.com.
Prairie Fields' Children's Independence Day Parade. 9 to 10:30 a.m. July 4, Prairie Fields Park, 200 Prairie Rose Lane, Savoy. This year, the parade will feature trucks from the Savoy Fire Department. Starts at the park and goes through the Prairie Fields subdivision. Don't forget to decorate your bikes, wagons, strollers and pets. 689-1360.
Fourth of July at Sholem. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 4, Sholem Aquatic Center, Centennial Park, Champaign. Activities will include free face painting, a kid-friendly cannonball contest, America-themed trivia contests, free watermelon- and ice-cream-eating contests, concessions and food and drink specials. champaignparkdistrict.com.
Freedom Fest. Noon to 10 p.m. July 4, Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve, Mahomet. Food concessions and some family activities start at 3; Music in Motion plays from 5 to 9 p.m.; at 9 p.m., after a tribute to service members, a spectacular fireworks display set to music. Admission is $1 per person, with children 5 and under free. Additional contributions will be appreciated.
Bement Freedom Celebration. 2 p.m. to dark July 4, Bement and Piatt County Forest Preserve Park outside Bement Bryant Cottage State Historic Site, Bement. Games, activities, food, fireworks.
Seymour Show and Shine Car Show. 2 to 5 p.m. July 4, Main Street, Seymour. Public invited to check out the cars for free. Preregistration for car show, $8; $10 day of show. 369-8829.
Pounds for Hounds. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 5, under the tents on the lawn of the Humane Society, 1225 N. Collett St., Danville. Clothing sold by the pound. Books and additional items available. Face painting and other family fun. All proceeds go to the Humane Society. 443-4110.
Sparks in the Park. Noon to 4 p.m., July 5, Ervin Park, Tuscola. Car show, presented by Wheels Car Club. Participant voting. Registration, noon to 2 p.m. Awards, 4 p.m. $10 entry fee. 253-3047, 253-4147, 268-3873.
Danville Boat Club's 'Thunder Over Lake Vermilion.' 5:30 p.m. July 5, Danville Boat Club, 15750 Boat Club Road. Dinner, 6 to 8 p.m.; live music, featuring Steve Rodman and Rodman Rail, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.; and fireworks, 9:30 p.m. Admission $5, children 10 years and younger, free. danvilleboatclub.com.