The Ashland Chamber of Commerce is geared up for the city's biggest day of the year, the annual Fourth of July celebration.




New improvements to the festivities include misters to keep shoppers cool as they browse the various craft, food and activity booths as well as an interactive space exhibit sponsored by ScienceWorks where children and adults can participate in about a dozen exhibits. These exhibits, which are sponsored by the national science foundation, are specifically developed for community events, like the Fourth of July celebration in Ashland, said Skoshi Wise, the director of education at ScienceWorks.




Kids and adults alike can see the inside workings of a telescope, play with a plasma ball, which looks like a spark of electricity that is attracted to human touch, or learn about air pressure in space by pumping all the air out of a chamber and watching a balloon expand inside.




"Ashland is such a great community, we have so many great things to offer. hosting these big events like the Fourth of July festival I think we attract people who might not otherwise come to Ashland," Wise said.




There has been a Fourth of July celebration in Ashland since the late 1800s, said Sandra Slattery, executive director of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce.




"Main Street used to be dirt and they used to race horses down it and shoot off fireworks," she said.




At a press conference Monday, chamber officials announced this years' selection of the grand marshal, who will be Leo Zupan.




Zupan was a prisoner of war in World War II and has been an Ashland resident since 1941. After WWII he came back to Ashland and managed the men's clothing and shoe departments at Fort Miller's Department Store. He married in 1945 and soon after became a real estate agent.




Zupan became sole owner of Windermere Van Vleet in 1975. The business still exists in its original location and Zapan's son and grandson have joined the family business.




Zupan is active in the community as a member of the Elks and the chamber. Zupan and his wife, Veda, also contribute to the Schneider Museum of Art.




"They came to the house to ask me and I knew it wasn't something I was going to refuse," he said at Monday's press conference. "I am really thankful and proud to be honored this way."




The Independence Day celebration is the largest city celebration in Ashland all year, with about 25,000 viewing the parade each year.




The parade starts at 10:15 a.m. at Triangle Park, will proceed down East Main Street and finishes just past the Plaza.




At 10 p.m. the fireworks display, presented by Ashland Chamber of Commerce, will begin near the Southern Oregon University's Raider Stadium, and will be seen from most parts of Ashland.




But throughout the day, families can peruse the various food and craft booths stationed in and near Lithia Park and enjoy music and events all day long.




"It gets people and neighbors out on the street together," said Mary Pat Parker, director of public relations and marketing for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. "When I was a parade viewer total strangers would start chatting with each other; people are out there to have a good time. It's a reminder of why we live in the United States and why we live in Ashland in particular."