More seems to be the theme for this years Rockin 4th of July, with more bounce houses, more games and more shuttle buses to get everyone to the event faster.I dont see a lot of changes this year, said Angie Henley, cultural arts/special events coordinator. Its a successful event already.The annual event drew 9,000 people last year and 11,000 are expected at next weeks event at Big League Dreams, Henley said. Visitors will find 11 bounce houses, sponsors handing out prizes and carnival games at the sports complex.Professor D, which plays Top 40 and cover tunes from the 70s and 80s, will play from 7:45-9:15 p.m., followed by a short ceremony with Holly Watson singing the National Anthem.Kids (and their parents) can take a swing at Living Churchs smash car, play in the game truck or dive into the foam pit, getting covered in foamy bubbles. Artistic types can help color a 12-foot-long mural that will be sent to the military stationed in Iraq, then wind up with a Wiffle Ball home run derby.Food and beverages will be available for purchase at four stations and in the Diamond Club at Big League Dreams.The highlight every year, though, is the 20- to 25-minute fireworks show that launches over the back of the sports park. This year, the fireworks will go off at 9:30 p.m.And people will be able to get to the celebration -- and back to their cars afterward -- faster this year with 25 shuttles running from Newsom Stadium to Big League Dreams. There will be no parking at BLD, but parking and the shuttles are free at the stadium, starting at 6:45 p.m. and running until 11 p.m. or until the last person leaves.Henley is looking forward to the event even more than the community, since it will be her first. She started working with the city in October.The city of Mansfield really supports its special events, she said. Its obvious to me, being a new person, the community pride that exists, which I appreciate.Theresa Cohagen, the citys tourism director, started the Rockin 4th when she held Henleys job. She sees the event as a way for Mansfield to show off the sports complex with eight miniature ballparks designed to look like Major League stadiums.The one thing I hear the most is that they didnt know there was a facility like Big League Dreams in Mansfield or in the Metroplex, she said. Its a great opportunity for people who dont play softball to see it or to see it in a different light if they do play. And it emphasizes other ways that we can utilize the park.I think people are overwhelmed, they think its just a big field, Cohagen said. Even people who arent athletes can enjoy the sports complex during the Rockin 4th, she said.You see small children to senior citizens, Cohagen said. Its clean, its safe, its compacted so grandma can sit down and mom can run around with the kids.Henley says there are some things visitors cant do at the Rockin 4th, though, like bring in coolers and ice chests, pets or fireworks. She advises people to bring lawn chairs, blankets, sunscreen, insect repellent and cash for food and drinks.
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451 Twitter: @AmandaRogersNM