NEW PALESTINE — Sitting in her corner office at town hall, Caralee Griffith started on a long to-do list, knowing the clock is working against her.
The New Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce representative is just days away from joining town officials to bringing the biggest event to town — perhaps the biggest, they say, in its history.
Organizers of Chamber Fest 2016 are hoping to attract as many as 10,000 people to downtown New Palestine on Saturday during a free, day-long street festival to celebrate Independence Day.
A large turnout is expected thanks to organizers booking country music duo Thompson Square. The duo is composed of two-time Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association award-winning husband and wife team Keifer and Shawna Thompson, who have also been nominated for two Grammy Awards.
Thompson Square, which will perform at 8:15 p.m. after a number of other area artists, topped the radio charts across with No. 1 singles “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” and “If I Didn’t Have You”.
To accommodate the crowds, officials will shut down the main road through New Palestine, U.S. 52, from 4 a.m. to midnight. Open streets will allow patrons to enjoy events including the Dragon Dash annual race, a car show and fireworks display.
Food vendors and a beer and wine garden also will set up shop.
“We’re hoping the event will be one people will come in and enjoy and then stay for the fireworks,” Griffith said.
U.S. 52 will be closed to all drivers between Bittner and Gem roads. A detour will take westbound drivers from South County Road 200W to U.S. 40; eastbound drivers will be directed to take South County Road 600W to U.S. 40.
Gem Road will be open so drivers can access New Palestine High School, where the Dragon Dash kicks off at 8:30 a.m. Patrons also can park there throughout the day to gain access to other events, including the New Pal Classic 3-on-3 basketball tournament, starting at 1 p.m.
Drivers also may park at Doe Creek Middle School and Sugar Creek Elementary School and ride a free shuttle into town.
In years past, spectators have been allowed to park along Gem Road by the high school to see the fireworks show. Parking will be restricted there this year, Griffith said.
Town officials plan to have 26 police officers roaming the area throughout the day. Town Marshal Bob Ehle said it will include Greenfield Police and Hancock County officers. They also will have patrols from excise — undercover police as well as Indiana State Police officials.
“We’ll have more officers in our county here than anywhere else on that day,” he said.
Ehle, who has been the town’s law enforcement leader for 15 years, said while it will be a challenge having so many people in a small town, they’ve planned to work with Indianapolis Police Department officials to handle the crowd.
“We’ve pre-planned and pre-planned again, and we’re still pre-planning,” Ehle said.
Chamber officials and the town’s police department have worked tirelessly, organizing the celebration Ehle said.
“This is a good thing for the town,” he said. “I think a lot of people are going to see what a neat town we really have here.”
A variety of celebrations across Hancock County are planned in recognition of Independence Day in the coming weeks.
8:30 a.m. to midnight — New Palestine Chamber Fest, U.S. 52 in New Palestine. Fireworks begin at 10 p.m.
10 a.m. to 11 p.m. — Cumberland Founder’s Day, town hall, 11501 E. Washington St. Tents include entertainment, beer and wine and children’s activities.
7 p.m. — Entertainment on the Plaza: Brandywine Wind, playing patriotic music on the plaza south of the courthouse, 9 E. Main St., Greenfield.
9:45 p.m. — Greenfield fireworks show, Greenfield Central Junior High School, 1440 N. Franklin St., Greenfield