With "Freedom to Learn" as its theme — and Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan as grand marshal — Ashland's Fourth of July spectacle will burst forth along Siskiyou Boulevard and East Main Street, to the delight of an expected 20,000 viewers.

With "Freedom to Learn" as its theme — and Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan as grand marshal — Ashland's Fourth of July spectacle will burst forth along Siskiyou Boulevard and East Main Street, to the delight of an expected 20,000 viewers.

Just as exciting will be the plethora of musical events, artsy booths, exotic food vendors, patriotic readings and, of course, fireworks, as Ashland joins America in celebrating the 236th anniversary of its independence. The day also honors SOU on its 140th birthday — and the parade is more than 100 years old.

The annual pre-parade breakfast at Ashland Elks Lodge is from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. It's pancakes, biscuits with sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage links, fruit cups, juices and coffee. Cost is $7, $4 for kids 10 and younger.

Events kick off at 7:45 a.m. at the Ashland library, at the corner of Gresham and Main streets, with the traditional six-mile run and, 15 minutes later, the two-mile run.

Vendor booths will open at 9 a.m. in Lithia Park, and the Siskiyou Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon's wildflower show will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Ashland Community Center, across from Lithia Park.

An F-15 fighter-jet flyover, scheduled for 10:15 a.m., will launch the parade, which starts at Triangle Park, corner of Siskiyou Boulevard and Beach Street, and flows down the main drag until it turns right at the Ashland Plaza onto Water Street. The procession will feature clowns, bands, beauty queens, children's entries, gymnasts, trick bikes, horses, faith-based floats, political candidates, social-service entries and historical vehicles.

A shoulder-to-shoulder crowd will follow the parade down the middle of the street, headed for pubs and the booth-lined Winburn Way along Lithia Park.

The Ashland Lions' annual chicken barbecue will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the park. Advance tickets can be purchased at Paddington Station and Music Coop.

Live music will be performed from 12:30 to 4:50 p.m. at the park's Butler Band Shell. Bring a blanket and a picnic supper and enjoy tunes by the Ashland City Band, Brothers and Craig Wright and Friends, all hosted by Camelot Theatre's Livia Genise.

Ashland Mayor John Stromberg will deliver an address at 1:15 p.m., followed by the traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence from the band shell.

A lull of several hours will follow the fun in the park, while folks flock to neighborhood barbecues, then attention will turn toward Ashland's fireworks display, which will fire off at 10 p.m. on the athletic fields at SOU, at Siskiyou Boulevard and Wightman Street. No personal fireworks are allowed.

Not far away, the American Band College Fireworks Concert will start at 8 p.m. at the Ashland High School stadium, off South Mountain Avenue.

When fireworks begin showering the skies at dark, the music will play in tempo with the show. The event will feature a multimedia performance of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," with narration, big-screen video and a full choir. World War II veterans will be introduced. The American Band College is composed of directors of 180 bands, middle school through college, from across the nation. Admission to the show costs $18, free for kids.