More than just a chance to view colorful explosions in the night sky, many Columbia County groups will offer family togetherness and camaraderie on Independence Day weekend.
Katelyn Outzs of Edgefield shows off her patriotic colors during last years Fourth of July festivities at Patriots Park.
"It's just a good family-oriented event," Columbia County Recreation Department Director Charlie Beale said of the Patriots Park Fourth of July Celebration on Sunday. "It's something that has something for everyone.
"People bring their blankets and their picnic baskets and just sit under the stars to watch the fireworks."
Other patriot weekend events are scheduled from Fort Gordon to Thurmond Lake for residents to attend.
The county's sponsored free event, which is held annually at Patriots Park begins at 4 p.m. and features carnival rides and games, a Wagon and Stroller Parade for kids at 5 p.m., sack races for adults and children at 5 p.m., a water-balloon toss at 6:30 p.m., a pie-eating contest at 7 p.m. and a pig-throwing contest at 7:30 p.m. during which rubber pigs are thrown for distance.
"That went over really well last year," Beale said. "This year, the winner of the pig-throwing gets a T-shirt and a free dinner at Mot's (Pit Cooked) Barbeque."
Opening ceremonies at the event begin at 6 p.m. on the main stage, located behind the gymnasium. Popular local band Shiloh performs from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and 8 to 9 p.m. An Elvis impersonator takes the stage at 7:30 p.m.
Columbia County's largest fireworks display caps off the celebration at 9:30 p.m., Beale said.
"It's the biggest event the county puts on every year," he said. "Between 10,000 to 15,000 people came last year because it's just good, clean fun."
Beale warned that anyone arriving after 6 p.m. must park in the Merchants Association Fairgrounds, across from Patriots Park.
In Grovetown, massive amounts of pork await diners at the 17th Annual Grovetown Fourth of July Barbecue at Goodale Park on Sunday beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau founded the annual event after he took office in 1988. He even donated his first year's salary, more than $3,000, to fund the event.
The Independence Day-inspired barbecue came at a time when political scandals fractured the city and pitted neighbor against neighbor.
"(Trudeau) believes you can't fight over the dinner table," said Vicky Capetillo, chairwoman of the city's barbecue committee and Grovetown utility billing clerk.
"He thinks no one can fight when they're in such a good mood, eating such good food. He figured it would be easier to bring the town together through an event like this."
About 2,200 people attended last year's barbecue, Capetillo said. She expects that number to rise this weekend.
The lunch is free for anyone eating at the park. Take-out plates are $4.50. Volunteers will deliver barbecue plates to anyone medically unable to attend the festivities if they call city hall at 863-4576 before Friday.
To keep people at the park, the event offers children's games, a raffle and several live performances, including Elliott Holden Band, C.D. Morris and the Southern Bluegrass Boys, Polynesian Dancers and George James and the Mountaineers.
Fourth of July events:
Patriots Park Fourth of July Celebration, Sunday at Patriots Park, 5445 Columbia Road. The free events starts at 4 p.m. featuring rides, contests and games with fireworks scheduled at 9:30 p.m.
The 17th Annual Grovetown Fourth of July Barbecue, Sunday at Goodale Park, beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Fort Gordon holds its Independence celebration Thursday from 3 to 10 p.m. at Freedom Park and on Barton Field. A fireworks and laser show starts at 9:45 p.m. The Signal Corps Concert Band will perform the 1812 Overture featuring live cannon fire just before the fireworks.
The event is open to the public, but visitors must have a picture I.D. to enter Fort Gordon.
Liberty on the Lake 2004 will be held 2 to 10 p.m. on Saturday at the Little River Marina, 4271 Old Lincolnton Road, Appling.
Admission is $3 per person and includes family contests, a praise and worship concert and fireworks. For more information, call 541-1358.
Tradewinds Marina, 5577 Marina Parkway, Appling, hosts a fireworks display Sunday at 9:30 p.m. Boaters are encouraged to watch the fireworks off shore, but the fireworks can still be seen from land. Admission is $5 for the Marina, or $4 to park at Lake Springs. For more information, call 541-1380.
Free barbecue will be given to anyone with a valid boat registration on Saturday at At The Lake, a new boat storage facility located at 3557 Mistletoe Road, Appling. For more information, call 541-5253.
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