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Fireworks and Fun for the Fourth

Sparkling lights dancing in the night sky, as burst after burst of fireworks keep exploding over the water. Being full of barbecue chicken and Coca Cola, the cool air feeling good on the slight sunburn gained from hanging out. That’s how I remember Fourth of July.

Last year Zee was too young to appreciate the festivities, but perhaps now she’s old enough to get the magic of seeing the display. Yes, it has deeper meaning — the Star-Spangled Banner, Independence Day, Founding Fathers, the Constitution — but one is a little young to start the history lesson.

While fireworks are in short supply — only Scotts Valley is having a show, as the City of Monterey canceled theirs due to budget concerns — there are plenty of ways to celebrate our country’s 234rd birthday.

The Spirit of Watsonville shows itself at 2 p.m. when the grand marshal leads the cavalcade down Main Street. The parade route starts at St. Patrick’s Church, corner of Ford and Main streets, and ends at the city’s Civic Plaza, 275 Main Street.

A much shorter experience will be had by participants in the “World’s Shortest Parade,” centerpiece to Aptos’ July Fourth celebration. Festivities in Aptos begin at 7:30 a.m. with a pancake breakfast hosted by the Cabrillo Lions Club and the Aptos Chamber of Commerce in front of the Britannia Arms.

Then at 10 a.m. the “World’s Shortest Parade” covers two blocks, starting at Soquel and State Park Drive and ending at the Bay View Hotel. This hometown spectacle tends to include nearly every Aptos resident, some in costume and some not, along with antique cars, music groups and more.

Afterwards, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Party in the Park gets rolling at Aptos Village Park. Pony rides, a petting zoo, a climbing wall and bounce houses will be the background for all-day performances by local band Extra Large. There will also be plenty of food vendors.

The City of Monterey may have canceled their parade and fireworks, but their picnic is still happening with free entertainment from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the grounds of Colton Hall (570 Pacific Street, Monterey). There will be bands, free carnival booths and games, face painting, bounce houses and more.

An old-fashioned Independence Day Celebration will be held at Wilder Ranch State Park. How old-fashioned is it? Rangers there say they will be partying like it’s 1909. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors can travel back 100 years in living history at the former dairy ranch.

The day kicks off with a parade, complete with suffragettes, at 11:45 a.m. The procession begins at the apple orchard in front of the Highway 1 tunnel and ends at the front lawn for a program of flag raising, patriotic music and the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Historic lawn games, a cake walk, ice cream cranking, crafts, and wagon rides make this an ideal place to bring the family. Food, from roast corn to watermelon and strawberry shortcake, will be for sale. Parking is $8, but the event is free.

Roaring Camp is taking revelers back to the 1950s for the Fourth in Felton. Dance to live music in the sock hop at this train depot, home to the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway and the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad. Hula hoop contests, sack races and a balloon toss give those with a competitive streak a chance to show their prowess. There will also be an all-American barbecue with food for sale. The event is free, but parking is $7.

Scotts Valley’s annual Fourth of July celebration starts at 3 p.m. with a hometown parade and ends with a 20-minute fireworks show. Bands, performers and local color will march in a loop along Scotts Valley Drive, between Civic Center Drive and El Pueblo Road. Then the action moves to Skypark, where carnival booths, bounce houses, pony rides, food booths and live music (Mike Hadley and the Groove takes the stage at 6:30 p.m.) will keep revelers busy until the fireworks start at 9:15 p.m. Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 on the day(831-438-3251 or scottsvalley.org). Officials encourage everyone to use public transportation to and from Skypark, since traffic can be a nightmare.

No matter what you do, have a safe and sparkling Fourth!

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