Goshen-All through the year, Goshen is never short on community spirit. Barely a holiday passes without its parades and parties. But Great American Weekend is Goshen's ultimate blowout. This Independence Day weekend festival, now in its 23rd year, gets grander with time. This year the festival will run from Friday, July 2, through Sunday, July 4. The weekend aims to showcase Goshen as wonderful place to live, work, and shop, and to give local nonprofit groups a chance to take advantage of crowds none of them could attract on their own. The Historic Track, the original reason for the weekend, continues to benefit from the excitement. The Great American Weekend was the brainchild of Mary Gray Griffith, former president of the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, and several other chamber members. They wanted to create another reason for people to visit Goshen during the Grand Circuit Racing at the Historic Track. When betting was banned at the track after Roland Harriman's death, many feared the crowds would cease to descend upon Goshen. The chamber believed a family-oriented event would draw people to the track and to the businesses that had relied on the large para-mutual betting crowd that showed up every July. At first, the weekend was a small affair. There were fireworks -- then there were lawsuits. Then there were more fireworks, only this time sponsored and produced by a chamber vice-president's corporation. The early years showcased only a few vendors. Some chamber members chased the crowds with a hot dog wagon. The Great American Weekend was not much to brag about. Much has changed since then. Besides the dozens of vendors selling crafts, antiques, and food, and information booths set up by the nonprofits, the weekend offers a rousing bed race, children's rides, a car show, a soap box derby, walking tours of historic monuments, and continuous entertainment under a big white tent. Two new activities have been added this year. Children ages 5 to 12 will be able to make crafts, play games, win prizes, listen to storytellers, and star in mini-theater productions at the new Kid's Korner. Climbers of all ages and all athletic ability will be able to test their skills on the rock climbing wall. This 25-foot wall features four climbing surfaces, each of varying difficulty. Returning this year will be the bed races scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m. on Park Place, right behind the First Presbyterian Church in Goshen. Teams are now being formed for this hilarious event. If you have five people (four runners and one rider) who think they have what it takes, contact the chamber office at 294-7741 for information on how to enter your team. The bed race is made possible by support from Furniture Options and Serta Mattress. Proceeds from the races will benefit Heritage Riding for the Handicapped. Heritage Riding will also benefit from the pre-Bed Race Pasta Dinner, co-sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church in Goshen. In addition to providing a great way to feed the family after a busy day, this fundraiser will also feature a tricky tray in the tents adjacent to the dining tent. The dinner will be held on Saturday, July 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. Starting off the weekend will be the Tangent concert at the Historic Track, sponsored by the Track's Ladies Auxiliary, on Thursday, July 2, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors and students. Children under 6 will be admitted free of charge. Schedules and locations for all Great American Weekend events will be available at merchants throughout the village and at the information booth during the weekend. For more information, call 294-7741.