The horse, named Philadelphia or Philly for short, will mark the first time a filly will be ridden during the show. She was named after the city of Philadelphia where the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place on July 4, 1776.
It was with great sorrow last year that the Rural Patriot Marty Miller announced several days before the fireworks show that his long-time horse and riding companion Snip had passed away. With no time to prepare a new horse for the show, Miller brought Snip’s saddle, placed it on the ground and placed the American flag into the saddle during the time of the show when he and Snip would traditionally make their ride across the field in front of the Niagara Falls.
Although Miller mourned the loss of his equine friend, he was determined to train another horse to ride in this year’s show. Honoring America and veterans are very important to Miller and annually this ride allows him the opportunity to share his love of America and freedom with all the attendees at the fireworks show.
“It’s an honor to ride in the show,” said Miller. “I ride for our country, for veterans, to honor our soldiers, and the American people.”
During Philly’s training, Miller described her as a quiet horse who listens and pays attention to his commands. Philly also remains composed around loud noises.
Miller admitted it is exciting yet sometimes scary to think about riding a new horse at the fireworks show because Arthur’s show is filled with many distractions for a horse such as the fireworks and the massive amounts of people. Before the show, Miller always parks his horse trailer away from the audience. Except for the soft singing of Johnny Cash and the enthusiastic claps and cheers from the audience, Miller’s part of the show is calmer because the thundering kind of fireworks are stopped during his ride for freedom.
Larry Schlabach of the Niagara Falls Fellows is also excited about his cousin Marty Miller riding in the show and for Philly’s debut. “Marty does a great job,” said Schlabach. “When I listen to the cheers from the audience during his ride, it brings a great sense of pride and puts it all into perspective why we do this show every year.”
Schlabach encourages all those interested in attending the fireworks show to arrive earlier in the day because there are activities scheduled throughout the afternoon and evening. When attendees arrive earlier, it helps them secure parking and the ability to select a location to watch the fireworks.
The annual Freedom Celebration Parade steps off at 2 p.m. in downtown Arthur as Belgian horse hitches, queens, politicians, antique cars and tractors, floats, the Niagara Falls Fellows, and more will delight those in attendance.
Events at Jurgens Park open around 4 p.m. with concession stands and vendors galore offering a wide variety of food and treats. Tickets for optimum firework seating in Jurgens Park also begin selling at 4 p.m. T-shirts and the newly introduced ball cap commemorating the fireworks show will also be sold. The proceeds from the t-shirt and sale of ball caps are earmarked for veterans going to the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
Be sure to look to the skies for the Powered Parachutes (weather permitting). Captain Rat and the Blind Rivets will perform from 6-9 p.m. in Jurgens Park. The skydivers will land on Arthur High School football field at 8 p.m. with the singing of the National Anthem as the final skydiver brings in the American flag. The gigantic and amazing fireworks display by J&M Displays, Inc. will begin at 9:30 p.m.
“The fireworks show will include audience favorites from the colorful array of fireworks to the fireballs and Wall of Fire,” said Schlabach. “The Gatling Gun style of fireballs, which debuted at the 2021 show, will also return.”
For our return attendees and new fans, the cannons will be shot, and the Ultimate Fireball will be shot right before the Wall of Fire, said Schlabach. Vesuvius, located on Jurgens Hill, will be shot off at the end of the show.
The show traditionally begins with fireworks but what makes Arthur’s fireworks unique is what Schlablach describes as an intermission where he lights the area and sky with Niagara Falls, fireballs, and the Wall of Fire.
Chief Illiniwek will make an appearance on top of the press box on the football field as orange and blue fireworks will be shot off along with the playing of the University of Illinois fight song.
Schlabach prepares for this show all year long whether it is conversations with his crew on how to improve the show or testing of new fireballs. His excitement about this annual tribute to America only increases each year.
“It’s amazing to see all the people who attend,” said Schlabach. “It makes all the challenges that come with the show worthwhile. I get goosebumps hearing the crowds yelling and cheering in support of what we do to celebrate our country’s freedom.”