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Music, food and fireworks return for Fire on the River

posted Jun 29, 2016, 8:57 PM by John Ramthun
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Fire on the River in Sauk City on July 2 will feature 16 hours of hot summer fun, with runners heating up the pavement early, grills blazing, fireworks booming and the hottest of classic hits from the Retrospecz band.

Participation in the first-time half marathon Eagle Chase that starts off the celebration has organizers pretty excited.

Fire on the River co-chair John Ramthun of the 6:8 non-profit organization said among more than 200 registered runners, more than 30 of them are coming from 10 states, not including Wisconsin.

“Of the 175 Wisconsinites registered, only 75 are from the local or Madison area,” Ramthun said. “There are 100 coming from all around the state. Just the run is drawing people to the Sauk County area, and they’re looking for places to stay. The race has been a huge draw.”

He said the numbers are expected to rise with race-day registrations beginning at 7 a.m. that day.

If you Go:

If you go

What: Fire on the River Fourth of July celebration

When: 8 a.m.-midnight July 2

Where: Water Street, downtown Sauk City

Admission: Free

The 13.1-mile run starts at the front of August Derleth Park, winds through Sauk City and Prairie du Sac, past the hospital to the canoe launch on River Road, back to Water Street and ends behind the Sauk Prairie Police station on Water Street.

Runners also can sign up for a 5K or 10K route.

Plenty to eat

At the same time the run is going on, the Sauk Prairie Kiwanis Club will host a pancake breakfast from 8-11 a.m.

The burgers, brats and hot dog stand opens at 11 a.m. right next to the beer garden and closes at midnight when the festival ends.

One of the food highlights is the return of the Flavors of Sauk Prairie from 4-7 p.m. featuring about 20 local establishments and private chefs looking for the most dollars after handing out samples of their recipes for $1.

The Flavors event is an opportunity to taste everything from chocolates to chicken, and tamales to taco chili for those who prefer their food spicy.

The beer garden opens at 8 a.m. and stays open until 11:30 p.m.

Irish soul to Retro rock

While the fireworks display will light up the night sky at dusk, there are plenty of stars on the ground throughout the entire day.

The event’s emcee is Rauel LaBreche, who also finds and hires the musical acts for Fire on the River.

LaBreche said just the scenery of the Wisconsin River as the backdrop to the main stage is an attraction in itself.

He said the music acts are fewer so they can play longer sets.

“The one thing I heard from people in the previous two years was we just wanted them to keep playing,” LaBreche said.

He said he wanted a wide variety of genres.

“Part of the goal is to have eclectic music and a broader spectrum of types of music,” LaBreche said. “We aren’t going to bring in Aerosmith. It’s more to highlight the stars of Sauk Prairie.”

The headliner for the evening is Madison-based Retrospecz with a repertoire that runs the gamut of the rock and roll alphabet with hits from AC/DC to ZZ Top. The band starts at 8:30 p.m. with a break for the fireworks display, and starting up again around 10 p.m.

Other musical performances include Corey Mathew Hart, a multi-award winning folk rock recording artist who takes the main stage beginning at 9 a.m.

At noon, the Kells, a four-piece group, will bring their authentic folk music of Ireland to Sauk City.

Dancers with the KP School of Dance of Prairie du Sac grace the stage for about an hour beginning at 2:30 p.m.

The Prairie Spies is an acoustic trio made up of local artists Curt Meine, Scott Weber and Jeff Gerencser in a mix of classic rock, rhythm and blues and folk. They play from 3:45-5:15 p.m.

Sam Ness, a 2015 graduate of Sauk Prairie High School who just returned from a trip to Europe will follow the Spies with a short set of original songs along with a few familiar favorites.

The Beth Kille Band follows Ness with her blend of rock, country, folk and blues that has garnered her 20 Madison Area Music Awards. She takes the stage from 5:30 until 8 p.m.

Funds support 6:8

Much of the proceeds of Fire on the River go back into the production of the festival for the next year. Ramthun and his wife Sarah, who co-chair the 6:8 organization, took over the festival coordination in 2013, when it re-located from Veterans Memorial Park in Prairie du Sac to Sauk City’s publicly owned riverfront area.

6:8 is best known for its Feed My Starving Children food-packing weekend every October and other programs for youth and the elderly, are in their third year of organizing the event. The group also packs backpacks full of food and coupons to redeem for meat at local stores for underprivileged children four times per year when school lets out on break.

Fire on the River food and beer sales, proceeds from the Flavors of Sauk Prairie, and the silent auction helped fund 6:8’s programs.

“We want to serve the community by providing this event and the proceeds from the day we hope to invest back into the community year round,” Ramthun said.