Stow is gearing up for another event-filled Fourth of July, including its annual parade.

This year’s parade, again co-sponsored by the city of Stow and the Kiwanis Club of Stow-Munroe Falls, is celebrating the 61st marching of the summer highlight with the theme, "Freedom Is . . .."

But this year’s event will see a major change.

The staging and step-off point will be the Stow Community Shopping Center (Target plaza) on Kent Road, west of its longtime location in the Stow Kent Shopping Center. It will still travel west up Kent Road (Route 59), ending at Park Drive, just beyond Holy Family School.

Spectators need to especially be aware that if their usual viewing location was near the previous-stepping off point, they will miss the parade unless they move west of the entrance to Target. However, keep in mind when choosing a new viewing spot that spectators are not allowed on either side of Kent Road at the Kent State Airport site, according to FAA rules for airport safety.

For shoppers wanting to go to the Stow Community Shopping Center before Kent Road is closed for the parade, the traffic pattern will be changed. The west driveway nearest Target and Famous Footwear will be totally closed to traffic that morning. Customers will be able to enter through the driveway east of that, nearest to Applebee’s, but will have to exit at the light by McDonald’s. This pattern will allow customers to get in to the shopping center and park near the stores.

Parade entries will also enter at that same driveway and will be staged in the bulk of the parking lot east from Kohl’s and Target; parking will be available up front near the stores for shoppers.

The staging area will be roped off the night before in preparation for parade entries to begin arriving the morning of July 4.

About 120-130 participants are expected to take part in this year’s parade. The city has been trying to keep a limit on that number to keep the parade a manageable event, says Linda Nahrstedt, director of Stow Parks and Recreation.

Entrants in this year’s parade will include local officials; Scouts; churches; local businesses; organizations and community groups; classic vehicles; marching bands including Stow-Munroe Falls High School and alumni bands from SMFHS and Cuyahoga Falls; and of course, the always popular fire trucks.

At the forefront of this year’s parade will be the two Grand Marshals, Jan Mather and Laura Root. The two women saw a need in the community and went into action — thus, Bulldogs Bags Inc. was created in 2015, offering families in the Stow-Munroe Falls schools security in having food for the weekends. Twice a month, volunteers come to an assembly line packing of more than 550 bags for students in grades K-9.

Early that morning, the city of Stow will host its 41st annual Firecracker Run as part of the Stow Pride Festival events.

The event will kick off at 7:30 a.m. with a 4-mile run followed by the 3K Fun Run immediately after. The race will start at Holy Family Church on Kent Road, travel on Kent Road and end up back at the church.

The cost is: 4-Mile – $35 pre-registration, $40 day of race; 3K Fun Run – $25 pre-registration, $30 day of race. Families of 3 or more, discount $1 per runner, all entries must arrive together.

There are three ways to register:

• Online at StowOhio.Recdesk.com (No family discount given online)

• In Person at Stow Parks & Recreation, 3760 Darrow Road, Stow

Pay by credit card, cash or check made payable to City of Stow.

Pre-registration and race packet pickup: July 3, 4-8 p.m., Holy Family Church, 3179 Kent Road, Stow. Race day registration and race packet pickup will be from 6 to 7:15 a.m.

No pets allowed to participate with race contestants. Strollers are not permitted in 4-mile race, but are permitted in the 3K Run only. The 3K is for all ages, walkers and runners. Awards will also be distributed after each run. For more information about the event, age groups, payment options and rules, visit http://stowohio.org/funinstow/stow-firecracker-run/.

And before you head out to watch the parade, stop in for the annual Pride Pancake Breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m., served by the First Christian Church of Stow. The church is located at 3493 Darrow Road in Stow.

And remind Mother Nature we need a day of sunshine and no rain on that day.