By LEXIE BROEMMER
For The Herald-Whig
This weekend, the annual Red, White and Back the Blue Festival returns to Washington Park.
The festival, now in its third year, is set to be held from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday. The festival is open to the public and it is free to attend.
Crystal Barry, an event organizer, says the day is split into two halves.
In the first half -- from 2 to 5 p.m. -- the public is invited to come out to the park and view the tools and vehicles used by law enforcement and emergency responders.
Barry hopes to see not just adults but also children interact with first responders.
She said not only is the festival a great way for children to have fun by getting on a firetruck or in an ambulance, but also it teaches them about the role first responders play in the community.
"Kids love seeing all the equipment and the vehicles that all these departments have, so it's a great way for the kids to interact," Barry said. "Also, it's a great way to show them or help show them that these first responders are meant to be helpful and that you're not meant to be scared of them. With the negativity surrounding the police -- not locally, but nationally -- we wanted to make sure kids understood they are here to help, they're not there to scare you or anything like that."
There will also be an inflatable obstacle course, face painting, balloon animals and a magic show for children.
The second half of the day -- from 5:30 to 8 p.m. -- 6is when first responders will be honored.
Members of the Quincy Police Department, Quincy Fire Department, Tri-Township Fire Department, Adams County EMS, Adams County 911 Dispatch, Adams County Sheriff's Department and the Illinois State Police are able to get a free meal for themselves and their immediate families if they show their ID.
The public is welcome to also have dinner at this time and mingle with the first responders. Supporters may purchase food from the Hy-Vee Grill.
Local band Pepper Spray will be entertaining the crowd with live music from 7 to 10 p.m.
Originally, Barry says, the Back the Blue committee that organizes the festival first sought to honor the police department.
"It was back several years ago when the national media wasn't extremely kind to law enforcement officers, so we wanted to do something to show our support for our local community," Barry said. "With this festival, we wanted to expand that to not only our local law enforcement but to all first responders because without all of them our community would definitely feel the impact."
For more information, find the "We in Quincy Illinois Back the Blue" page on Facebook.