Source: Sherman Publications

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Independence saved
Kept promises keep Fourth fun in Clarkston

by Phil Custodio

June 29, 2011

Duane Higgens, Clarkston Community Church community team member, Pastor Greg Henneman, senior pastor of Clarkston Community Church, Kelly Hyer, Independence Twp Recreation supervisor Ken Elwert, Independence Twp Parks and Recreation Director. Photo Provided.
Without direct community support, Clarkston's Fourth of July would have withered on the vine this year.

But folks came through, ensuring a day filled of parading patriotism through downtown and festival fun in Clintonwood Park, topped with a full fireworks display.

In keeping with their promise to match every dollar raised for July 4 festivities, Clarkston Community Church contributed $10,000.

"We at Clarkston Community Church are so excited to be able to serve our great community of Clarkston. We are also thankful for the many businesses and individuals who took the challenge to keep the fireworks this year," said Pastor Dan Whiting, administrative pastor of Clarkston Community Church. "One of our church's main goals is to reach out and make a difference in the lives of people in our community and this was one of the ways to serve."

The parade is organized by a coalition of community organizations including Clarkston Optimists, Clarkston Knights of Columbus, Mount Zion Church, and Clarkston Lions Club.

"It's looking pretty good about 70 entries: fire engines, a number of veterans groups including Vietnam veterans, tractors, kids groups, churches, a lot of businesses," said Rob Whitcomb, Clarkston Lions Club volunteer.

The Independence Township Fire Department organized parade prevously, but had to give it up to concentrate on fire protection. Organizing their first parade was challenging, but the community groups worked well together, Whitcomb said.

"Everyone pulled their weight well and did their part," he said.

They were also assisted by Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce, Dawn Horner of Clarkston State Bank, Peg Roth of Downtown Retailers Group, as well as community volunteers such as Joette Kunse, Whitcomb said.

"It was pretty much a community effort," he said. "Hopefully we can keep it going and not let it die after one year. Making sure it continues is very important."

The parade, with the theme American Classics, starts at 10 a.m. at St. Daniel's Catholic Church on Holcomb Road. It's route is through downtown on Main Street to Clarkston Community Education building on Waldon Road.

The Festival of Fun and Fireworks follows at Clintonwood Park in Independence Township.

Clarkston Community Church pledged 50-100 volunteers to help at the festival, and is challenging residents to come out and volunteer for a shift on the day of the event.

"It's such a great tradition for thousands of Clarkston families, that we felt it would have been a shame to lose. We thought it would be great if churches and businesses rally together to make the Festival of Fun and Fireworks happen," said Pastor Greg Henneman, senior pastor of Clarkston Community Church.

"We're very fortunate to live in such a generous community and for them to earmark our events as one of their top priorities was really humbling," said Kelly Hyer, recreation supervisor of Independence Township Parks and Rec. "Because of their generosity, we were able to put on this event this year."

Forty-four donations were made to this year's festivities, of those were thirteen individuals/families, four churches in addition to Clarkston Community Church, four local organizations and over 20 businesses. Independence Pool and Spa and DMT Homes also stepped forward to sponsor the evening entertainment, Radio Disney's AM910 D-Tour.

"It (the community challenge) really motivated a lot of new donors this year and even some donors that have made significant contributions in the past really stepped up and doubled their contributions in some cases," Hyer said. "It wasn't just their donation, it just had a ripple effect."

With this year's goal already met, additional donations will be set aside for next year's Festival. Donations can be sent to: Independence Township Parks and Recreation, P. O. Box 69, Clarkston, MI 48347. Donation forms can be printed off or done online at

Make checks payable to: Independence Township. VISA or Mastercard also accepted. For more information, go to or call 248-625-8223.

"We're looking forward to an exciting event this year," said Park and Rec. Director Ken Elwert. "The fireworks are in a slightly different location, just across the street (from Clintonwood Park at Everest Academy) to make it more visible for everybody and we're encouraging everybody to come out."