A full slate of Augusta-area Independence Day events promises a variety of patriotic pleasures this weekend, ranging from the traditional fireworks displays to contests of seed-spitting skill.
During the four-day holiday weekend, events are planned at Fort Gordon, Riverwalk Augusta, Lake Thurmond, in Aiken and at Patriots Park in Columbia County.
Four days of events kick off Saturday at noon when the Critters Corner Petting Zoo and Hartley's Family Fun Amusements set up at the Eighth Street Plaza, where they'll remain through Tuesday. At 6 that evening, there will be live music compliments of Night Shift onstage by the Eighth Street Fountain. At 9 p.m. the Movies on the River series will have a free showing of the global-apocalypse class Armageddon at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater.
On Sunday, the live music continues with free performances by the IV Sure Band and MoodIndigo at the fountain stage. The music is to play from 6 to 10 p.m.
Monday brings concerts to the Jessye Norman Amphitheater. At 6 p.m. Tony Williams and the Blues Express and at 8 p.m. Johnny Hensley and the Red Hots present their second annual Shag'n on the River show. Admission to the amphitheater show is $3.
On Tuesday, the celebration of July 4 proper begins at noon. At the Eighth Street Plaza, there will be an arts and crafts show, the petting zoo and Hartley's Amusements.
One of the two Eighth Street stages will feature multicultural performances by guitarist Alex Thunderstorm, the Rhythm and Class Cloggers, magician Carbo the Clown, Mustard Seed, the Footloose and Fancy Free Cloggers, Magical Fires of Polynesia and the Mirage Middle Eastern Dancers.
The second stage features music by 420 Outback, John Monroe and the Ghostriders, Sideshow, Rubber Lip, Carpenter's Bride, Outer Limit and the Flo Carter Band.
At the amphitheater, festivities start at 7:15 p.m. with a decorated boat parade, balloon release and a welcome message from Save Our Savannah. At 8 p.m., after an introduction of dignitaries and sponsors, there will be a concert by the U.S. Army Signal Corps Band. The concert will conclude with a performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with its live cannon accompaniment.
The fireworks spectacular is scheduled for 9:30. For more information, call 821-1754.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
St. Paul's will play host to a program of patriotic music before the fireworks on the river Tuesday. Drawing instrumental and choral talent from the area, the program will feature such patriotic perennials as Stars and Stripes Forever and Yankee Doodle Dandy.
"These are really the meat and potatoes, bread and butter stock patriotic songs," said St. Paul's music director Keith Shafer. "The other real appeal to this is that it will be inside, in the air conditioning."
The program starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and $5 for children. For more information, call 722-6855.
There's nothing quite like the relative safety of a fireworks display above a large body of water. At Lake Thurmond, there are activities, each of which culminate with fireworks, scheduled Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, festivities begin at noon at the Little River Marina, located at 4271 Old Lincolnton Road in Leah. The event will feature singing, contests for children and adults, including a watermelon-seed-spitting contest, and fireworks at 9:30. For more information, call 541-1358.
On Tuesday, Tradewinds Marina at 5577 Marina Parkway in Appling will sponsor a fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. For more information, call 541-1380.
The post will hold its Independence Day celebration Monday, beginning at 4 p.m. at Freedom Park with music, an hourly raffle, face painting and visits from McGruff the Crime Dog. Between 4 and 7:30 p.m., the celebration will also feature traditional summer contests of skill, including ring tossing, watermelon-seed spitting, egg tossing and three-legged racing. The Fort Gordon Dynamic Steppers will entertain the crowd at 5 p.m., and a performance by the U.S. Army Signal Corps Band is scheduled between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Fireworks follow the music.
Patrons are asked not to bring pets, food, coolers or beverages. For more information, call 791-6779.
Across the river, Independence Day will be celebrated Saturday with a pyrotechnic display at the Aiken Jaycee Fairground. Fuses will be lit at 9 p.m., but the gates open at 5:30 p.m. with offerings of food and entertainment for the patriotic masses. Sponsored in previous years by the Aiken Mall, this year's event is sponsored by Todd Coontz, owner of Coontz Investments and Insurance.
On Monday, the Parris Island Marine Corps Band is scheduled to play at Hopeland Gardens as part of the summer concert series. The concert will start at 7 p.m. with the band playing a mix of marches, classical numbers, patriotic tunes, jazz and contemporary music. For more information, call (803) 642-7649.
Independence Day celebrations will take place on July Fourth proper at Patriots Park in Columbia County. Gates open at 6 p.m., and the event will feature gospel music, hot-air balloons, pony rides, clowns and political speeches. At 7:30 p.m., escape artist Michael Gilliland will perform, and at 10 the sky will be alight with the Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks show. Call 860-2952.
An appropriate Independence Day destination, Meadow Garden, the oldest documented house in Augusta, was once the home to Declaration of Independence signer George Walton. The restored home, furnished with period antiques, will be open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission for adults is $2, and children are free.
Celebrating the Fourth isn't just about fireworks. Sometimes it's about barbecue. Whipping up patriotic fervor as well as a mess of ribs, Grovetown will once again hold its Independence Day cookout at Goodale Park, starting at noon Tuesday. Tickets are $4 and include food. Drinks are an additional 50 cents.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626.