Hope area residents are invited to come out and enjoy an evening of classic cars, great food, activities and tunes culminating in a grand fireworks display with the return of Hope’s Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration and Cruise-In Friday starting at 5 p.m. on the Hope Town Square.

The celebration, presented by the Yellow Trail Museum and Main Street of Hope, is long overdue, says Jessica Brown, president of the Yellow Trail Museum.

“We are pretty excited to have the Old Fashioned Fourth this year,” Brown says. “It seems like so long ago, but it was the first event the museum had to cancel last year and people were really upset. Here we are a year later, so I think people are really ready to get out of the house and looking for something to do. I’m excited it is going to be hosted with the Cruise-In this year and will bring a lot of people in.”

Organizers say the evening is chock-full of activities for everyone young and old and the festivities lead up to the grand finale fireworks display once the sun sets.

To kick things off, a host of classic cars and trucks will begin arriving on the Square with registration starting at 5 p.m., says Matt Lee, executive director of Main Street of Hope.

And while classic cars and hotrods are settling into their spots on the Square, volunteers with the Hope Volunteer Fire Department will be firing up the fryers for the evening’s fish fry, which also starts at 5 p.m., Lee adds.

Beginning at 6 p.m. a meet and greet will take place on the Square where residents can come shake hands and chat with Hope’s new Town Manager Frank Owens, Main Street of Hope’s new Executive Director Matt Lee and Survivor finalist Rupert Boneham, who is known for his trademark tie-dye look and being a $1 million prize winner on the television show “Survivor.”

Those who wish to meet Boneham and have their picture taken with him are asked to offer a donation of any kind to Rupert’s Kids, a nonprofit charity Boneham started for troubled youth, Lee says. Boneham’s appearance at this year’s event is sponsored by the Night Owl Country Band, Lee adds.

A variety of craft and food booths set up on the Square will open at 6 p.m., including Kappa Kappa Sigma, which is offering funnel cakes, and Miller’s Merry Manor, who is hosting a cakewalk in the shelter house at 6:45 p.m., Brown says.

The evening’s festivities from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. will be set to the sounds of the Banister Family band who will perform on the grandstand, Lee says.

Carrying the crowd through the evening once the Banisters final set concludes is local DJ Mike Asher, who will keep the energy going from 8:30 p.m. until the start of the fireworks at dark.

Among the evening’s other favorite events are sack races starting at 7:30 p.m., a watermelon eating contest and tug-of-war at 7:45 p.m. and a water balloon toss at 8 p.m.

Brown says she is most looking forward to heading up the Little Mr and Miss Firecracker contest. The fundraiser takes in monetary donations through a penny vote system, Brown says. Once all the votes are counted, the accumulated donations benefit the Yellow Trail Museum.

“It is a fundraiser I had an idea for for the museum a few years back,” Brown says. “We are excited to be fundraising again because this whole year of a shutdown has taken its toll.”

The contest is open for children ages 3 to 10, Brown says. Parents of contestants simply fill out a registration form that can be picked up at the Yellow Trail Museum, WILLow LeaVes of Hope, or the Hope Branch of the Bartholomew County Library on the Square.

Votes should be submitted no later than June 30 to allow time for counting, Brown says, and the winner will be announced at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Many of the small businesses on the Hope Town Square will remain open Friday evening, Lee says, so people can check out some of the new businesses and maybe make a purchase or two.

“I am excited and really pumped for this event,” Lee says, as it is the first of its kind he has helped spearhead in his new role as executive director of Main Street of Hope.

There are even rumors of a possible dunk tank that will showcase the new town manager, Frank Owens, sources say.

“I heard that I might be in a dunk tank,” Owens says. “I am excited. I actually came for the June Cruise-In to say, ‘Hello’ and introduce myself to some folks. I hope they don’t get it on video of me in the dunk tank, but I’m excited. Who doesn’t get excited for Independence Day and all the activities going on. It will be great!”