Children at Ashland Independence Day parade [Photo]

Kayla Jestis,8, decorates her friend Daniel Gustofson, 6, with colorful plastic cable ties just before the start of the Ashland Independence Day parade today.

Lola the dog dressed up for Ashland parade [Photo]

Lola the yellow lab waits patiently for the Ashland Independence Day parade to begin today while cousins Mary Gracer Grover, left, and Mia Blanchard chat in the background.

Fireworks display at Midway Expo center [Photo]

Fireworks explode in the night sky at the Midway Expo Center in Columbia. The fireworks were operated by the FireOne system, which operates completely from a computer firing in tandem with music.

Jeff Cellucci of Sprit of '76 fireworks [Photo]

Jeff Cellucci of Spirit of '76 fireworks explains the path of the fireworks display he designed on June 19 at the Midway Expo Center.

Bob Gerau of Bob's Fireworks [Photo]

Bob Gerau of Bob’s Fireworks talks about his favorite fireworks that he has collected over the last 44 years.

Fireworks culture video [Video]

VIDEO: This video shows how fireworks culture is booming in Columbia. Bob Gerau has been a part of that culture as a local vendor of fireworks for the last 44 years. Jeff Cellucci shares a similar passion for fireworks with his work in designing firework displays for Spirit of ‘76 Fireworks.

Fireworks culture interactive map [Graphic]

There are several places to buy fireworks in Columbia, but also places where they are restricted.

TNT teammates bike outside Forum 8 [Photo]

Nicole Pele, left, and Shelly Frazier ride on bike trainers outside Forum 8 Theaters on June 18. The TNT teammates, who were raising money for cancer research, set out a poster for moviegoers to write the names of cancer-stricken family or friends to be their "honored teammates" when they compete in a triathlon in Washington, D.C. this September.

TNT coaches in Nations Triathalon [Photo]

TNT coaches Nicole Pele, left, and Lise Nyrop, center, talk with Jessica Wieberg outside Forum 8 Theaters June 18. Pele, Nyrop and Wieberg are participating in the Nations Triathlon in Washington, D.C. in September and took 50 percent of the Theater's concession sales, as well as donations from theater patrons, for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma research.

Freie Fireworks stand [Photo]

The Freie fireworks stand, located on Interstate-70 Drive Northwest, is closed for the first time in 33 years, but the family plans to reopen and expand it next year.

Semitrailer overturns on U.S. 63 [Photo]

A semitrailer overturned after drifting off U.S. 63 at around 9:25 a.m. on Friday near Gans Creek. The driver suffered minor injuries despite the damage. Before they begin cleanup, firefighters and highway patrolmen will investigate the overturned truck to make sure there are no hazardous materials.

Freedom of the press [Photo]

Mike Martin sits in front of a computer screen displaying his blog, The Columbia Heart Beat, in his home in Columbia on Monday. Martin has maintained the blog for four years, developing strong contacts with local officials and an intimate familiarity with the Boone County political scene. Martin's commitment to the community evolved after he purchased and renovated several rental properties in the area and got to know his tenants. "I've learned a lot about Columbia from them and how it's changed over the years," he said.

Freedom to petition [Photo]

Cherith Moore, center, and her children Olivia, 6, left, and Sage, 9, stand outside of their home on Alexander Avenue in Columbia on Tuesday. Cherith Moore, concerned with the heavy traffic flow on her street, which is home to many families with young children and pets, circulated a petition asking the city to construct two new speed humps and impose a 20 mph speed limit on the street. With help from First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, Cherith Moore and about 10 other residents were successful in their petition.

Freedom of religion [Photo]

Negar Jackson bows her head in a Baha'i prayer session at the Columbia Public Library. Originally from Iran, Jackson's parents were the last of the family to obtain exit visas from the Iranian government. After the summer of 1979, Jackson said, many of her relatives had to pay people to be smuggled out of the country.

Ring symbolizes three worlds of Baha'i faith [Photo]

Negar Jackson's ring symbolizes the world of God, the world of man and the world of the prophets of the Baha'i faith. Originally from Iran, Jackson's parents were the last of the family to obtain exit visas from the Iranian government. After the summer of 1979, Jackson said, many of her relatives had to pay people to be smuggled out of the country.

Freedom of speech [Photo]

Charles Dudley Jr. sits at what looks like a communication headquarters in the living room of his home in Paquin Tower. Dudley's living room is lined on two sides with tables that hold his computer, TV screen and several speakers. Being plugged into the Web is one way Dudley voices his opinions and exercises his freedom of speech.

A mission of prayer [Photo]

Dakota Hoard and Joanne Schrader gather outside Columbia's Planned Parenthood. Their mission revolves around using prayer to combat abortion.

New Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro [Photo]

Newly selected Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro, left, stands next to Sandy King, wife of the late Kent King, the former commissioner of education, at a press conference announcing Nicastro's position at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City on Thursday.

Freedom to assemble [Photo]

From left, Joanne Schrader, Kathy Forck, Alyssa Alman, Dakota Hoard and Bryce Thebo pray for the end of abortion outside of Columbia's Planned Parenthood. The group gathers every Thursday to counter the day the clinic performs abortions.

Eliminating positions [Graphic]

GRAPHIC: For the second year in a row, the Columbia Public School District cut positions as part of an overall budget reduction. The total budget reduction was smaller than the previous year, but the amount eliminated from paid positions for 2009-10 was slightly higher.