The cities of Jacksonville and Oxford will provide more than fireworks displays for the Independence Day holiday.

Each city will offer to the public free carnival games and other events ranging from a playful athletic competition for toddlers in Jacksonville to a patriotic parade in Oxford.
“I think it’s extremely important that we celebrate our Declaration of Independance,” said Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith. “The citizens seem to get a lot out of it.”

Jacksonville is hosting a string of nightly events leading up to its fireworks show, which will be held a day early on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on the Jacksonville High School football field. The Jacksonville events kicked off Monday with an evening pet competition, Bark in the Park.

They continue Tuesday with the Toddler Challenge, in which some of the city’s tiniest residents compete in Olympic events. On Wednesday, the city will host a pool party at the jacksonville Community Center on Alexandria Road between 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The city’s annual fireworks display will take place at 9 p.m., Thursday at Jax Fest, following the carnival games and performances by musician Riley Green and the Calhoun County Community Band at the high school stadium.

Oxford will wrap up its events into one day on Friday. The city’s Freedom Festival starts at 8:30 a.m. with the Around the Lake Ramble, in which senior citizens meet up and walk around the track at Oxford Lake.

Oxford’s events continue throughout the morning, and include a 9 a.m. parade, opening ceremonies at 9:15 a.m., a 9:30 a.m. tricycle and bicycle race, a 9:40 a.m. pet show, indoor carnival rides and several more events. There will be a break in planned activities after a 1 p.m. swim race at the city pool. The day’s events will end with a 9 p.m. firework show over the lake.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.