Except for the lack of fireworks and the fact that it will take place on Aug. 25, the Midsummer Classic could easily be mistaken for an Independence Day celebration.

Area residents attending the event at 6:30 p.m. at Diamond #1 at Mineral Springs Park in Pekin will have a chance to honor local veterans, listen to a medley of patriotic tunes, enjoy a favorite American pastime in the form of two softball games, and watch a parade of dogs from the Tazewell Animal Protection Society (TAPS). Volunteers for the event will issue American flags for spectators to wave. The event is free and open to the public.

“It’s a benefit for TAPs in memory of Jan Saal, who passed away unexpectedly this year,” said Midsummer Classic Organizer Bill Grimm. “Jan was a very strong supporter of TAPs. She and her husband, Bobby, were supporters of the community in general, but especially of TAPS.”

More than 60 volunteers consisting of local business owners and area residents have contributed time and resources to put on the event. Before the softball games begin, guest performers will sing “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless the U.S.A.,” and, of course “The Star-Spangled Banner.” An honor guard of local veterans, police and first responders will present the colors, and the TAPS dogs will take the field before the first game. Kathy Branwer, owner of Rhythm and Brew bar in Pekin, will throw out the first pitch before the Lady Legends game pitting MacDuff’s Lady Legends against The Roxes Lady Legends. In the nightcap of the Midsummer Classic, a Men’s Legends game, Nick’s Ivanhoe will take on The Original Ace Liquor.

The guest of honor for the Midsummer Classic will be local on-air radio personality Scott Robbins. Two years ago, according to Grimm, Robbins suffered three heart attacks and was given a five percent chance to live. 

“I know a lot of local celebrities and could have picked anybody,” said Grimm. “But it was Scott’s story that got me to choose him. Doctors told him he would be practically in a vegetative state, but by hard work, (he) graduated to a wheelchair, then to a walker and then to a cane. They told him he would never be on the radio again, but he’s back on the radio on three different stations.”

Robbins will also take a ceremonial at-bat. Grimm expects him to be walked on four pitches and replaced with a pinch runner.

“I hope the crowd will give him a really warm response,” Grimm said. 

The purpose of the event is to collect donations of much-needed pet food and supplies for animals at TAPS that are undernourished or have medical conditions, said Grimm. The original goal was to raise 100 cases of supplies. That goal has already been exceeded.

“I thought 100 cases was a lot,” he said. “Rhythm and Brews was our drop-off spot for donations, and the corner of the bar is packed. And we still have the rest of the week and the event itself to collect more. We’ve had donations come in from as far away as Colorado and Florida.”

Grimm estimated that 130 cases of pet food and supplies have been donated to date. He has set a new goal of 200 cases. He added that monetary donations are also welcome and will be promptly be converted into more pet supplies.