For those looking to celebrate Independence Day in traditional style, several family-friendly events promise to light up the sky.
The celebrations begin Thursday as the Army plays host to a free event starting at 5 p.m. at Fort Gordon's Barton Field. Activities will include children's games, pony rides, arts and crafts, food and live entertainment. The festivities also include a motorcycle show by the fort-based Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers group, said Mason Hoeller, a graphic artist at the fort.
Fireworks are slated to begin at 9:45 p.m.
"We get a lot of people out there," Hoeller said, adding that the event usually draws about 30,000 soldiers and civilians. "It is our biggest event."
The holiday fireworks will continue Friday evening at the 22nd annual Lake Freedom Fireworks Spectacular at Little River Marina and Family Resort in Appling.
Old-fashioned contests start at 3 p.m. and include watermelon seed-spitting and eating, horse shoes, sack races, three-legged races and a raw egg toss, said Pam Bugg, the owner of the marina at 4271 Old Lincolnton Road.
"It's been a hoot," Bugg said. "The kids love to see their parents spit watermelon seeds and do the three-legged race together. That, to me, is the most fun."
A Christian concert begins at 6 p.m. and fireworks start at 9:30 p.m.
Bugg said 700 to 800 people usually pack the marina for the event and many more enjoy the fireworks display from the water.
"The water is just packed," Bugg said. "As far as you can see, boats are all lit up on the water when the fireworks go off."
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. No coolers or alcohol are allowed. Food vendors will be at the event.
Columbia County's 15th annual Fourth of July Celebration is slated to be more explosive than ever.
"Because we were unable to shoot (fireworks) on Memorial Day, we're combining them for the Fourth of July," said Stacie Adkins, the county's community events manager.
Saturday, family-friendly activities, including inflatables, rides, arts, crafts, food vendors and games, start at 4 p.m. at Patriots Park on Columbia Road. Tethered hot air balloon rides also will be offered, weather permitting, Adkins said.
Opening ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m. and live entertainment starts at 6:30 p.m. Performers include the J. Mann Band, Brandon McGuiness, Hannah Miller and the U.S. Army Signal Corps Band from Fort Gordon.
Fireworks will begin at 9:30 p.m.
The event is free but games and vendors will charge, Adkins said.
Adkins said the Independence Day event draws about 10,000 people to the park. Guests are asked to park at the Columbia County Fairgrounds.
For those who'd rather celebrate the Fourth of July with barbecue, the city of Grovetown is holding its 22nd annual July Fourth Barbecue Saturday.
The celebration will be held inside the air-conditioned Liberty Park Community Center on Newmantown Road from noon until the barbecue runs out, usually about 3 p.m., said Vicky Capetillo, city clerk and event organizer.
"We get more (people) to this than we get to anything else in the city," Capetillo said.
Officials served about 3,000 plates in 2008 in addition to more than 300 plates taken to city shut-ins.
Barbecue is free and includes hash and rice, bread and pickles. Hot dogs and chips also will be available. Takeout plates cost $5.
Live entertainment will include karaoke and performances by Durell Morris and the Southern Bluegrass Boys.
Prizes, including a television and gift certificates to area businesses, will be given out beginning at about 1:30 p.m.
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