This coming week, in events that get to your heart through your stomach.
Wednesday, June 30
The Stoughton Fair opens today, leading the way on Independence Day festivals around the region. The fun at the fair is centered on a carnival and a series of grandstand spectacles from donkey racing to pig wrestling and demolition derbies to a truck and tractor pull, and also features chainsaw carving, a horse pull, live music, magic performances, and of course, fireworks. There will be plenty of opportunities to satisfy appetites too, including a steak dinner, pizza- and pie-eating contests, a fish fry, and a chicken dinner, not to mention ubiquitous fair food. Mandt Park Picnic Shelter, 321 S. Fourth St., Stoughton, noon-10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Call 608-873-4653 for more info.
The Columbus Fourth of July Celebration likewise begins today, getting an early start on the long holiday weekend. The five-day festival includes a midway carnival, a barrel art competition, an arts and crafts fair, live music, fun runs, bingo, a parade, and fireworks. Fireman's Park, 1049 Park Ave., Columbus, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Saturday, and 7:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Sunday. Call 920-623-5900 for more info.
Thursday, July 1
Plant a Row for the Hungry, a summer program to provide fresh veggies for local food pantries. The three-month "challenge" will be organized through neighborhood associations, which will collect and deliver donations pledged by participants in an effort to achieve the highest donation weight. Gardeners are reminded that produce "should be clean, good quality and at the correct stage of ripeness." This drive is part of a broader initiative on the part of the coalition, which is working to increase the amount of fresh-grown vegetables for local food pantries. "Home gardeners can make a difference," declare organizers, "and this challenge is a method of making it easier for each of these gardeners to donate their excess produce to their neighbors in need -- reducing hunger one vegetable at a time." Gardeners interested in participating are requested to contact their neighborhood association. Runs through September 30. Call 246-4730 x. 234 for more info.
The Evansville Fourth of July Festival promises a four-day weekend full of "good old-fashioned family fun." Activities at this fest include softball and euchre tournaments, a car show and tractor pull, a "Ducky Derby" and "Lunker Lob," a fun run and baseball game, a presentation of Oklahoma!, a parade, live music, and fireworks on the opening and closing nights. There will also be plenty of treats offered by food vendors, as well as at an ice cream social and a chicken barbecue. Lake Leota Park, 15 Antes Dr., Evansville, 5 p.m.-midnight Thursday, 6 p.m.-midnight Friday, noon-midnight Saturday and Sunday. Call 608-882-0598 for more info.
Friday, July 2
Independence Day revelry will be abounding this weekend at the Monona Community Festival, one of two holiday celebrations starting today. This three-day Winnequah Park, 1012 Nichols Rd., Monona, 3 p.m.-midnight Friday, 1 p.m.-midnight Saturday, 9 a.m.-midnight Sunday. Call 216-0157 for more info.
The DeForest Fourth of July Celebration is the second big weekend festival opening today. This community fair features parades, children's activities and entertainment, fun runs, a car show, bingo, game booths, water fights, a raffle, live music, and a fireworks display. Food vendors and a beer garden round out the fun. Fireman's Park, 500 Jefferson St., DeForest, 6 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Friday, 5:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday. Call 846-2922 for more info.
Saturday, July 3
Rhythm & Booms actually falls on the Fourth of July weekend this year, which should make for a particularly jovial atmosphere around the festival grounds on the north side, not to mention just about everywhere else along the shores of Lake Monona. The annual patriotic party also features a carnival, parade, a bingo tent, kids' activities, live music, a Madison Mallards game, appearances by the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, and a pre-fireworks F-16 flyover by the 115th Fighter Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. Crowds should be particularly thick around the beer gardens and food tents, which will be selling Oscar Mayer hot dogs, Milio's sandwichers, Papa John's pizza, as well as burgers, brats, gyros, pork chops on-a-stick, cheese curds, and plenty of other summertime fare. A shuttle bus from the Madison College campus at Truax to the park begins at noon, with a $4 fee for parking and a $5 round-trip ticket to-and-from the festival. Warner Park, 2930 N. Sherman Ave., noon-Grand Finale. Call 833-6717 for more info.
Sunday, July 4
The Token Creek Independence Day rounds out the holiday festivals this weekend. The festival begins with a military remembrance ceremony at the community cemetery, and is followed by the "bass-ackwards" 100-yard uphill Hiney Run, a bike decorating contest, the "Circle of Freedom" ceremony, a parade, a raffle, and a brat tent. Token Creek, multiple locations, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Call 608-217-3974 for more info.