BROOKINGS – The Uncle Sam Jam festival is aiming to make a big bang at the Swiftel Center on July 4 following a two-year absence in 2020 and 2021.
“Events in the past have been really, really well (attended), and we’ve seen a lot of community support,” said Ashley Biggar, director of marketing at the center. “It’s a great event in that it’s family, friendly and I think that really contributes to the overwhelming support that we see here at the Swiftel Center, and it’s free.”
She said that while there were fireworks the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, other activities weren’t part of the mix.
“Looking on to this year, oh my goodness, I think it’s going to be just so great to have the full activities and festival back versus just the fireworks,” Biggar said. “The fireworks were great to have … but it’s really nice to have the fireworks plus all of the activities.”
Those activities, which kick off at 5 p.m., include:
• 5 to 7 p.m.: Character meet and greets along with the Great Plains ZooMobile
• 5 to 9 p.m.: Inflatable games, crafts and sandbox
• 6 to 8 p.m.: Face painting
• 6 to 9 p.m.: The Rude Band
• 10 p.m. (approximately): Fireworks
A coloring contest and photo booth will also be at the festival, and concessions will be available as well.
Dakota Entertainment will be bringing six inflatables to the festival in all sorts of sizes for all sorts of ages, Biggar said.
“A bouncy house, an obstacle area – just a lot of different fun activities for kids to participate in, and six of them, so there’s going to be plenty of room to occupy a lot of children, which is really nice,” she said.
Biggar and one of her coworkers, Director of Partnerships Brooke Barhite, will be doing face painting.
“Both of us have experience face-painting in the past,” Biggar said. “I have face-painted for years at the Swiftel Center, so it’s really nice to be back and be able to participate in that.”
She added that children will have nine options to select from. “Kids can pick out their favorite, if they want to be a princess or have a snake or a hero or even some fireworks for the Fourth of July. (There will be) many options that will be a lot of fun to paint (on) the kids’ faces.”
Children at the festival can also expect to see some of their favorite characters, such as Captain America and the Ice Queen from the movie “Frozen.” Biggar described the Ice Queen as being like Elsa from “Frozen,” but a different version of Elsa. In past years, characters such as the Little Mermaid and Elsa have been at the Uncle Sam Jam, she added.
If meeting and greeting their favorite character isn’t enough for families and children, then perhaps seeing what the Great Plains ZooMobile has to offer will leave them with a sense of wonder.
According to GreatZoo.org, “With a table full of animal artifacts and a chance to meet some of our live animals, the ZooMobile will be sure to be a hit with your participants.”
“They’re such a fan favorite,” Biggar added. “Just seeing the kids so interested in all of the different animals and they get to touch them and check them out. It’s just a really good time.”
Besides the activities, music is also on the menu in the form of The Rude Band, which offers country, rock, pop and more.
“The Rude Band is such a classic for our event,” Biggar said. “They’re a crowd favorite, and they’re a regional favorite, too. It’s just a really good party atmosphere, great cover band, a huge range of types of songs and genres, so it’s going to be a really fun time just to have them back. (They have) great energy levels and production, (and) it’s something that we always look forward to.”
Biggar said preparing the Swiftel Center for the Uncle Sam Jam festival is an intense experience.
“A lot of hours go into this as far as making sure everything is put together on the planning side and then the day of, of course, is a lot of hard work and dedication from all of our team members … who are so integral in making sure this festival happens,” she said. “If we didn’t have people sign up to work, we wouldn’t be able to put it on. So, we’re really grateful for all of the teamwork that goes into putting this event together.”
Contact Mondell Keck at [email protected]