If you haven't lost a finger to a too-much-bang-for-your-buck firework, you can count on both hands the number of states that have banned all consumer fireworks. And, yes, Arizona is among them -- Arizona, home of Do-It-Yourself Pest Control, drive-thru liquor stores and the right to carry a handgun just about anywhere you damn well please. Go figure. But you can still put some snap, crackle and boom into your Independence Day celebration at Valley events where the professionals handle the pyrotechnics.
Phoenix is usually hotter than the proverbial firecracker on the Fourth of July -- the average high temperature for the date is 106 F. -- but the Fabulous Phoenix Fourth, scheduled from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 4, on the grounds of the Arizona State Capitol, 17th Avenue and Jefferson, is pretty cool on a couple of counts. First, it's free. Free admission. Free parking. Free swimming. Free entertainment headlined by country star Tracy Lawrence. Second, it promises "the largest choreographed pyrotechnical aerial fireworks display in the state" in the Honeywell Fireworks Spectacular that begins at 9:35 p.m. There's plenty of other stuff, too, including carnival rides priced at $2 each or $12 for an unlimited-ride wristband. Call 602-534-3378 for more information.
Glendale's Hometown Fourth of July, which begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 4, at the Glendale Community College football stadium, 59th Avenue and Olive, is another freebie. The requisite fireworks extravaganza will be preceded by a Luke Air Force Base jet fly-over, entertainment by country band Lost Highway, old-fashioned games and a spectator kazoo-along. Guess that last one's for all the folks who might otherwise sing The Star-Mangled Banner. Gates open at 5 p.m. Call 623-930-2299 for details.
Not free, but certainly reasonably priced is the Tempe Town Lake Festival. If you went to the festival last year, you're sure to remember it. They gave a party and invited everybody, expecting about 30,000 to show up. But like a wedding where even your fourth cousins say, yes, they'd be delighted to attend, Tempe found itself with 125,000 guests on its hands. This year, organizers have expanded the festivities to two days, with the Safeway Beach Party scheduled from 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesday, July 3, and the SRP Fireworks Spectacular from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 4. Entertainment, games, swimming and fireworks are on tap both nights, with the more spectacular pyrotechnical display reserved for the Spectacular. Admission at the gate is $8 for adults, free for children 12 and younger. Parking is free. Call 480-927-9000 for more information.
And how will the Fourth of July play in Peoria? Find out at the All-American Festival beginning at 4 p.m. at the Peoria Sports Complex, 16101 North 83rd Avenue. This one's got a $5 admission tag for those 13 and older, but parking is free, and the games and rides are, too, once you're inside the park. You'll know you're in Peoria, Arizona, not Peoria, Illinois, because the musical entertainment will be provided by a country-rock band named Vigilante. Call 623-773-7198 for details.
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Wherever you go, remember this: If you want to exercise your right to bare arms, don't forget the sunscreen.