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Columbus will roll out its biggest event of the year next week with the annual Fourth of July Celebration.

This year’s event, from July 3-7, features live music, carnival rides, games, brat and burger stands and, the main attraction, the July 4 parade. Roger Venden, president of the Fourth of July Organization Inc., said this year’s parade could be one of the largest in the event’s history with more than 90 units scheduled to appear.

The parade begins at noon and concludes at about 2 p.m.

“We’re probably one of the biggest (Fourth of July) celebrations in the state,” Venden said.

Columbus’ July 4 celebration is unique because it’s one of the few in Wisconsin that stretch for nearly a full week.

“The Fourth of July Organization started in 1972 when we took over the event from the fire department and it’s evolved into what it is today,” Venden said.

The celebration begins July 3 at Fireman’s Park. 5th Gear will perform on the main stage. Besides the parade, many events are scheduled for July 4, including the Firecracker 5 Run/Walk, a performance by Madison-based rock band Granny Shot, and fireworks at dusk. Granny Shot’s sound spans decades, as the band covers hits from the 1970s to early 2000s.

This year’s event motto is “Celebrate Freedom,” and Fourth of July reminds Americans freedom comes with sacrifice. A few of the brave soldiers who served in military conflicts defending that freedom will be honored as marshals during the parade.

Richard Zehfus, this year’s honorary parade marshal, passed away April 5, 2018. Zehfus accepted the honor before he died and the organization will celebrate his life and military service during the parade. Zehfus, a World War II veteran, joined the Navy in 1945. Barely 18, Zehfus traveled to Mississippi for training and was stationed in Los Angeles until his service ended in August of 1947. He participated in the Badger Honor Flight in 2013.

Other marshals include Stan McAliley, Dale Sennhenn and Merlin Tiedt. McAliley joined the Navy in 1950 and served in the Korean War. After stops in San Francisco and Japan, the Columbus resident spent 42 months on a naval destroyer. He was discharged in 1954 and made a home in Columbus with his wife, Caroline.

Sennhenn was born and raised in Columbus, graduating from Columbus High School in 1966. He was drafted into the Army in 1968 and sent to Vietnam in June of 1969. Just two months later, while on recon patrol, he was wounded by enemy fire. He recovered at a hospital in Kentucky and was discharged later that year.

Tiedt graduated from Columbus High School in 1988. That same year, Tiedt enlisted in the Army. From 1990-92, he served in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. After being discharged, he joined the Army National Guard and had numerous deployments until he retired as a staff sergeant in 2011.

“We selected a parade marshal from each of the last four conflicts,” Venden said. “They were selected to represent all area veterans. This is the first year we’ve done it this way. Usually we select someone who has done a lot in the community and never asks for anything back.”

On July 5, the Pavilion will feature a family movie night with the screening of “Peter Rabbit.” July 6 features a performance from Dexter Road, a country rock band from Horicon. The band’s musical influences range from Led Zeppelin and the Eagles to Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney. This year’s event concludes July 7 with three musical acts, highlighted by Cherry Pie, a band paying tribute to the days of 1980s hair metal.

The event features free admission. For more information, go to columbus4thofJuly.net.

Contact Kevin Damask at 608-963-7323 or on Twitter @kdamask