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OTTUMWA — A local church is expanding on a new Fourth of July tradition in Ottumwa.

The First Church of the Open Bible is hosting its second annual Fourth of July Family Festival from 5-8 p.m. Thursday. In 2018, the organization set up in the area of the former Target building. They had bounce houses and gave away free hot dogs, said Associate Pastor Sarah Peel. She estimated the turnout of about 600.

“Last year, our pastor just said, “I want to serve our community.’ It’s not about getting people to go to our church, it’s just about serving people and reaching out,” Peel said.

“This year, we moved it to the Jimmy Jones shelter house,” she said. The church has 1,000 hot dogs to give away, and plenty of activities will be set up. Five bounce houses will be available along with a dunk tank, face painting and carnival games. “There’s going to be all kinds of stuff,” Peel said. “It’s something for families to do. It’s a good time, and it’s right before the fireworks,” she said. Everything at the festival is free. — several businesses donated to the event to make that possible, Peel noted.

The church has a goal of serving 1,000 people this year. “If we have to run and get more food, that’s what we’ll do.”

This time of year, though, weather is always as factor with outdoor events. Peel said they are hoping for favorable weather for the event. “If it’s just a light rain, it will probably be inside the shelter house. If it’s storming, we’ll probably be storming,” she said. “If the fireworks are cancelled, we’ll probably be cancelled, too.”

Personally, Peel is looking forward to serving the children: “I was the children’s director for eight years so I just love that the children are having a good time. And having my pastor in the dunk tank,” she said. “My husband will be in there, too, so I’ll probably have to throw a few.”

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached at tgoldizen@ottumwacourier.com or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.

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Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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