Booster Park literally is the county’s playground.

There are baseball and softball fields, soccer and football fields, a jungle gym and playground and, for those brave enough to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, plenty of space to whistle and hoot as they gently guide their parachutes to a grassy landing.

Once a year—on the Saturday closest to Independence Day—the park becomes a gathering place for all of Orange County at the annual Playin’ in the Park celebration. In this case, July 6.

The title serves multiple functions as community members are indeed invited to “play” in the park, while local musical talent “plays” on the Booster Park stage.

It’s an event that not only celebrates the July Fourth holiday, but also highlights the county’s featured park.

“We want to bring the county together and highlight the park,” Orange County Parks and Rec (OCPR) Director Tim Moubray said. In conjunction with community sponsors his office hosts the annual event.

“We don’t want to compete with some of the larger Fourth of July celebrations,” he said. “We basically promote this within the county. We’re not looking at it from a tourism perspective, necessarily, but as something for our residents.”

And they turn out by the thousands.

Gates open at 5:30 and Orange Baptist Church Pastor Alan Miller takes the stage with Matt Baldwin at 6 p.m. for the opening set of acoustic music. Trust us: Miller can play—and not just hymns. He nearly joined a rock band before he went into the ministry.

Skydivers will deliver the American flag from thousands of feet above  the park around 7 p.m. before the national anthem, marking the 243rd anniversary of American independence.

Madison County’s Wishful Thinkin’ takes the stage at 7:20 and The Mojo Jam (from Orange) wraps up the entertainment from 8:30 to 9:30—give or take.

At dusk, Orange County fireworks company Pyrotechnico becomes the main attraction—with a continuous fireworks display on the upper field.

“It’s a non-stop show,” Moubray said. “There aren’t any breaks. It’s exciting.”

That excitement costs about $1,000 per minute, he noted, but is well worth it and possible through local sponsorships.

Throughout the evening, local food trucks, including Mountain View Barbecue, Barbara’s Soul Food, Krecek Kakes, B-Radd Ice Cream, Kona Ice and Buffalo Wild Wings, and Boy Scout Troop 16 will be offering food for sale, though Moubray noted participants are encouraged to bring their own picnic as well. (No alcohol is permitted on site.)

Other activities include Orange County’s own competitive eater Darron Breeden, who by then will know how he fared in the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest July 4 in Coney Island. (Breeden is fresh(?) off winning a raw oyster eating contest.)

Near the playground, children can enjoy the “touch-a-truck” experience with representatives from the Orange Volunteer Fire Company, Virginia Department of Transportation, Town of Orange and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. And parents can enjoy the life-size Tonka trucks, reminding them of their youth.

Local girl scouts will help with parking, with freewill donations appreciated.

Moubray encouraged those interested in attending to arrive early because the event draws nearly 5,000 and parking fills up fast.

The Orange County Parks and Rec “Playin’ in the Park” celebration will be held Saturday, July 6 from 5 p.m. until fireworks are over at Booster Park behind the Orange County Airport. For more information, visit the OCPR Facebook page. 

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