The excitement of the 10th annual Crape Myrtle Festival begins with a must-see fireworks show and a tailgate party this evening at Lumpkins Stadium and continues with a parade Wednesday, July 4.

Gates open at 6 p.m. today with the concert at 7 and the fireworks show following.

“The tailgate party and the fireworks show are both free to the public,” festival chairman Bonney Ramsey said. “The fireworks usually last about 30 to 45 minutes and of course the next morning is our annual parade, which begins at 10 a.m.

“The parade will begin on College Street by the railroad tracks, travel west on West Main Street, then turn left onto Grand Avenue traveling south and ending at Getzendaner Park,” she said.

This year’s parade marshals are Bill and Charleene Pitts, and the Crape Myrtle Council also has named Bernyce Crownover as Crape Myrtle Queen and selected 7-year-old Makenzey Ivy as Crape Myrtle Princess.

This year’s theme is “Pink Petals and Patriotism,” which will be represented through the many decorations and the parade.

“The council is who decides the festival’s theme each year,” said Debra Wakeland, president of the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce. “This is also the theme for the parade and for the decorations. During the festival, you’ll see people with pink trees and pink flags in representation of the theme.

“This is also our first year to have children’s activities at the tailgate party,” she said. “Some of the activities include rock climbing, a bounce house, an obstacle course and possibly others.”

Lone Star Glory will provide the evening’s entertainment, which is presented by Chicago Title Insurance Company, which represents Trinity Abstract and Title Company.

“This is their first time here so we’re really encouraging everyone to come out, fire up their grills, sit back, relax and just enjoy a good old-fashioned July 4 experience,” Wakeland said.

Ramsey said she believes everyone enjoys the festivities because they are able to come out, relax and enjoy great music — for free.

“People will bring their tents, cookers, chairs and whatever else they want to bring to enjoy a good old-fashioned Fourth of July,” she said. “I think since we started the tailgate party, we’ve averaged about 2,000 to 3,000 people to come out and enjoy a free concert and beautiful fireworks.

“And the parade, it is always great because the children love it and it’s just great to see people line Main Street,” she said.

According to Ramsey, H-E-B will be on hand selling foods and drinks, along with Maui Wowi Hawaiian, which will serve frozen beverages. There will also be vendors on hand passing out glow sticks and other similar trinkets to children for their enjoyment.

The Crape Myrtle Council, the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau and the city of Waxahachie all have a role in sponsoring the festival, which Wakeland and tourism director Laurie McPike Mosley say they are certainly looking forward to.

“We are just thrilled to host the Crape Myrtle Festival and we enjoy assisting the council in producing this event,” Wakeland said. “It was such an honor for the Legislature to name us the Crape Myrtle Capital of Texas.”

“I just encourage everyone to come out for the parade and watch it from Main Street,” Mosley said. “It’s just one of my favorite memories of the year with all the crape myrtles lining Main Street.”

Ramsey said she thoroughly enjoys the festival because it is a great celebration of two wonderful events combined.

“The festival is unique because we’re celebrating the fact that the city of Waxahachie is recognized as the Crape Myrtle Capital of Texas, and we also celebrate our independence,” she said. “It’s also special because this is our 10th annual festival and we are very fortunate to have two wonderful events that we can celebrate at one time.”

In 1997, the Texas House of Representatives declared the city of Waxahachie the Crape Myrtle Capital of Texas.

The council has helped get the crape myrtle designated as the state shrub of Texas. Through grants, the council has planted more than 3,000 crape myrtles in Waxahachie.

E-mail Chicarra at chicarra.dense@waxahachiedailylight.com