Fun on (and before) the Fourth

How do you celebrate the Fourth of July? Do you prefer an early event with food and a parade? How about a later celebration, complete with music and fireworks? Or maybe something family friendly, with activities geared specifically toward children? And even though July 4 falls on a Saturday, would you like to get a head start on the celebration?

Bridget Richwine, second from right, helped her sons get into the Fourth of July spirit with hats she made for C.J., 11, at right, and Ben, 5. Grandmother Chloie Adkins, far left, looks on. They were at the Fourth of July celebration in Lutz last year. (File Photos)

Bridget Richwine, second from right, helped her sons get into the Fourth of July spirit with hats she made for C.J., 11, at right, and Ben, 5. Grandmother Chloie Adkins, far left, looks on. They were at the Fourth of July celebration in Lutz last year.
(File Photos)

If you answered “yes” to any of those options, there’s a full schedule waiting this weekend. Several venues are planning on large crowds ready for patriotic fun that’s either free or low cost. Here’s a rundown of some events happening Friday and Saturday:

Celebrate July 4 on July 3
You don’t have to wait until July 4 to start your weekend festivities. Get an early jump on the patriotic celebrations at The Shops at Wiregrass, 28211 Paseo Drive in Wesley Chapel. The Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Freedom Festival will take place July 3 from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m.

More than 50,000 people are expected to attend this family friendly event, which includes a bike decorating contest, watermelon-eating contest and the annual Little Miss and Mr. Firecracker Pageant. And it will end with a special fireworks show.

The details:

Opening ceremonies begin at 4 p.m. at Center Court. The pageants will be held at the Center Court stage from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. A line dance will begin at 6:30 p.m. in front of the watermelon-eating contest at Buckle, located at No. 140. A parade will begin at 7:45 p.m., with fireworks to follow.

The Little Miss and Mr. Firecracker Pageant has three separate age categories. For information and an application form, email Jennifer Cofini at ">.

A Lutz Tradition
What would the Fourth of July be without the Lutz Independence Day celebration? This year’s event (themed Lutz Heritage: Proudly We Serve) includes a 5K race, one-mile fun run, flag-raising ceremony and cake auction. And, the parade, of course. Afterward, trophies will be handed out and the winner of this year’s Lutz Guv’na race will be announced.

The details:

One young girl jumps in excitement as the North Tampa-Lutz squadron of the Civil Air Patrol makes its way down Lutz Lake Fern Road as part of the Lutz Fourth of July celebration last year.

One young girl jumps in excitement as the North Tampa-Lutz squadron of the Civil Air Patrol makes its way down Lutz Lake Fern Road as part of the Lutz Fourth of July celebration last year.

The parade setup begins Friday at 10 a.m., at the Train Depot, and volunteers are welcome. Cake entries can be dropped off on Friday between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., at the Lutz Senior Center, 112 First Ave., NW.

The final cake registration ends Saturday at 7:30 a.m. The 5K race begins at 8 a.m., with the fun run beginning at 8:45 a.m. The flag-raising ceremony begins at 9 a.m., with the parade starting at 10 a.m. The cake auction, trophy presentation and Guv’na announcement begins at 11 a.m. For more information, call Phyllis Hoedt at (813) 949-1937.

Fourth at the Fairgrounds
The annual Sparklebration event will be July 4 at the Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 State Road 52 in Dade City. There will be watermelon and hot dog eating contests (and food trucks for everyone else, serving up churros, barbeque, bacon specialties and other treats), live entertainment including Dennis Lee, the Red, White & Blue baby pageant, a watermelon spitting contest and skydivers. And, of course, fireworks to cap off the day.

There are plenty of special activities for children as well, including bounce houses, pony rides and a petting zoo.

The details:

Gates open at 3 p.m. The baby pageant begins at 3:30 p.m., with entertainment on two stages starting at 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per person (children ages 12 and younger are free), and parking is $5. Attendees are welcome to bring blankets and chairs, but pets, alcohol and personal fireworks are prohibited. For more information and to register for contests online, visit PascoCountyFair.com.

Special For Military Families
In addition to all the local celebrations, it’s a good weekend for military families to visit Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W. Sligh Ave. During their Red, White & Zoo celebration, active duty personnel, retirees and veterans get in free July 3 to July 5 with valid military identification, as well as up to three direct dependents.

The dependents can participate without the military member as long as an adult with valid military identification accompanies minors. For more information, call (813) 935-8552 or visit LowryParkZoo.com.

Published July 1, 2015

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