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From the Stadium of Fire to the baby contest, final preparations are under way for the annual Freedom Festival at Provo Fourth of July celebration.

More than 624,000 people are expected to attend the 27 events this year, making the festival one of the premier Independence Day events in the nation, organizers say.Perhaps the most visible daytime event will be the 10th annual Balloon Fest. The three-day event will take place at 6:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Monday, July 1, 2 and 4, and feature competitions such as balloon jousting, hare and hound, key grab and ribbon tie events.

The Awards Gala, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 1, will honor people throughout the world who "have helped to give others freedom," gala organizers say. This year's winners are Balk Sung-Hak, Jose Alberto Sanchez, David Beattie, Jon M. and Karen Huntsman and John Walsh. They will speak to the audience following a formal dinner. Tickets for the event are $30 and available at the Provo City mayor's office until Wednesday.

This year's Stadium of Fire will feature the Oak Ridge Boys, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Mickey Mouse and his Toontown Friends. Following the live entertainment, fireworks will light the sky for 35 minutes to an hour. Tickets are $9, $13, $15 and $19 and are available by calling the Marriott Center ticket office at 378-BYU1.

Former BYU and current San Francisco 49er quarterback Steve Young will be the grand marshal of this year's Freedom Festival parade. The procession will go the opposite direction of the usual route. It will start at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 4, at Provo High School and will go south on University Avenue. It will then turn east on Center Street and head to 900 East. It will move north at 900 East, ending at the BYU law school parking lot. Parade watchers will be allowed to sit on the street within 15 feet of the curb along University Avenue this year.

A schedule of festival events follows:

June 30 - Baby Contest, 8:30 a.m., Timpview High School; Old Timers Baseball Game, 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Cougar Field.

June 30, July 1 and 4 - Arts Festival, 9 a.m., Utah County Government Complex.

July 1, 2 and 4 - Balloon Fest, 6:30 a.m., Freedom Field.

July 1 - Freedom Awards Gala, 6:30 p.m., BYU Wilkinson Center Ballroom.

July 2 - Volleyball Tournament, 8 a.m., Orem Fitness Center, Picnic in the Park, 1 p.m. Orem City Park; Golf Tournament, East Bay Golf Course, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., four-ball format, $70 per team; Children's Parade, 10 a.m., Memorial Park; Stadium of Fire, 8 p.m., Cougar Stadium.

July 3 - Patriotic Service, 7 p.m., BYU Marriott Center. Speaker will be Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

July 4 - Grand Parade, 9 a.m., University Avenue; bike race, 1 p.m., Utah Valley State College Campus; Freedom Run, 7 a.m., 10K costs $12 and begins at Temple Hill Drive and North Temple Drive. Fun Run costs $9 and begins at 700 North and University Avenue.

For Freedom Festival information, call 345-2008