East Valley set to wish America ‘Happy 243rd’

Crowds can expect to be dazzled by Mesa’s firworks display on Thursday night at the Convention Center complex.

The East Valley is ready to celebrate America’s 243rd birthday on Thursday with fireworks and public parties scheduled throughout the region.

Mesa’s Titan Solar Power Arizona Celebration of Freedom and Tempe’s July 4th Tempe Town Lake Festival will commemorate this year’s Independence Day with fireworks, musical performances, food vendors, stunt shows, historical re-enactments and memorials. 

Chandler and Gilbert also are geared up to mark Independence Day with evening-long celebrations.

Chandler, Tempe Mesa officials all said they’re expecting as many as 20,000 people at their respective events. 

“There’s so much going on, it’s like a Fourth of July Disney Land,” said Mesa City spokesman Steven Wright. “There are thousands of kids laughing and having fun. It’s just great to see all of the work we put in for six months.” 

Tempe spokeswoman Shannon Reed said her city’s celebration is “a really a family-friendly environment. I feel safe and it’s well managed.” 

“I’ve been with my family and the view is unparalleled for watching the beautiful fireworks.”

All but Tempe among East Valley cities last week made WalletHub’s list of the top 100 cities in the nation which offer the best places to celebrate Independence Day.

Mesa last week was ranked as the 62nd best place in the United States to spend the Fourth, according to WalletHub. 

Gilbert ranked 65, Scottsdale was 12, Phoenix made 42, Tucson was at 44 and Chandler, No. 49.

The financial website compared how the 100 largest U.S. cities balance holiday cost and fun — including average beer and wine prices, duration of fireworks shows and weather forecasts. 

“Mesa is the place to be on the Fourth of July,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles in response to the ranking. “From Revolutionary War reenactments and the Arizona Fallen Soldiers Memorial, to inflatable water slides and laser light shows — we have something for everyone.” 

The Arizona Celebration of Freedom is free and takes place at the Mesa Amphitheatre and Convention Center complex at University Drive and Center Street from 6 to 10 p.m. 

Freedom-goers will have a selection of live musical performances to choose from, plenty of food options and kid-centric activities to keep the whole family entertained, said Wright. 

“The thing about the celebration that makes it unique is the only thing people have to pay for is food or beverages — all the activities are free,” said the spokesperson. “The reason we did that is because we wanted residents and the community around us to have a place they could enjoy the fireworks.”  

With free admission, 37 sponsors raised $20,000 in cash and kind donations to fund the celebration, Wright added. 

As far as musical performances go, the Hamptons and Shallow Water will perform on a grass lawn — complete with tailgating games — at the Stage America starting at 6 p.m.

A beer garden at the Mesa Music Festival Stars & Stripes Stage will also be open around the time, where attendees can sip to performances from Sophie Dorsten, Will from Brazil, Troubleman and Autopilot.

“People kind of get surprised when we have these massive beer gardens at an event in Mesa,” Wright said. “They think Mesa is, for some reason, a dry city — but a lot of people who go to the city love it.” 

Professional BMX stunt riders will show off on customized ramps near the All American Food Court, and children of all ages can head over to the Yankee Doodle Kids’ Zone and Celebration Splash Zone for carnival style games and inflatable water slides. 

While there are plenty of opportunities to kick back and unwind, Wright said, the Celebration’s most attractive asset is its educational components. 

“When we created this, we wanted it not to be just celebratory, but also educational,” he explained. “Every firework show has music, beer gardens, food trucks and fireworks. We have all that, and then we do the educational things that help kids understand that it’s not just about fireworks and playing — there’s a reason why we celebrate this.” 

The We Make History Team will be performing a Revolutionary War reenactment using black powder firearms, while the Arizona Band Flotilla — the second U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary band — will play patriotic tunes in between reenactments. 

A mobile Fallen Soldiers Memorial honoring Arizona residents that “paid the ultimate price” in the fight against terrorism will also post shop in the Convention Center. 

“It’s very respectful and we have it guarded,” said Wright. “We have picket fences and pictures that tell a little bit about the individuals.” 

The Arizona Celebration of Freedom fireworks will begin at 9:30 p.m. 

For those looking to watch fireworks over a body of water in the desert, the Kiwanis Club of Tempe’s 67th annual July 4th Tempe Town Lake Festival is right on the money, according to Reed. 

“Tempe Town Lake is such a treasure, it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Arizona,” she said. “Having the fireworks over the lake is a stunning site. They’re beautiful, well-done fireworks.” 

Gates at the Tempe Beach Park will open at 5 p.m. with $10 admission fees upon entry. Children 12 and under, or anyone with an active military ID, can get in for free. 

All net proceeds from the event will go toward supporting valley youth via an array of service projects managed by the Kiwanis Club of Tempe (KCOT) — a Kiwanis International affiliate that seeks to serve community children. Last year, 30,000-plus attended the festival and over $50,000 was raised for local charities.

“The City of Tempe works very closely with Kiwanis and Kiwanis International,” said Reed. “It’s a large organization and they have them throughout the United States and other countries — they do a lot of good work.” 

Like Mesa, the festival will incorporate a variety of musical performances and entertainment.

The Big Zephyr will play throughout the night, bringing country music and a blend of old and new rock to the stage, while Grace Rogers, an award-winning singer and actress, will sing the national anthem at 7:10 p.m. 

“I think they try to find a variety of bands that appeal to large audiences,” said Reed.

The Festival’s food court will feature hot dogs, BBQ, roasted corn, fry bread, snow cones, ice cream, lemonade, cold bottled water and Pepsi products.

Other food vendors will also be on site. 

And finally, at 9:15 p.m. the Kiwanis Club of Tempe will shoot fireworks — choreographed to music — from Mill Avenue Bridge.

Both the Mesa and Tempe celebrations will search personal items at entry. 

Small bags and backpacks will be permitted in Mesa, whereas ticketed guests can carry one large clear bag to Tempe Town Lake. 

Mesa will also allow water bottles, coolers, portable chairs, blankets, non-alcoholic beverages and food. 

The Tempe festival, according to its website, will permit 1 gallon of sealed water per person, blankets, portable chairs, personal cameras and personal umbrellas. 

Both celebrations are still in need of volunteers. 

In just a few weeks a crowd will hit Tumbleweed Park to celebrate Independence Day with games and, of course, fireworks.

Chandler’s July 4th Fireworks Spectacular will run 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Tumbleweed Park, 2250 S. McQueen Road. 

Riviera Broadcasting will bring a DJ to play three hours of music while Arizona State Fair will provide games for children and adults, as well as a coloring station. 

A variety of food trucks and snack booths selling hot dogs, hamburgers, snow cones, ice cream and other popular foods will be on hand.

Fireworks Productions of Arizona will shoot the fireworks starting at 9 p.m. with the light show lasting about 20 minutes. 

“They’ve been doing it for years,” Hermelinda Llamas, city special events coordinator. “They’ve been awesome every year. They really know we like great, big grand finales.”

It is free to attend the fireworks show but it costs $5 to park at Tumbleweed Park. 

People are encouraged to bring gloves and balls to play on the open fields and to take advantage of the playground equipment.

 No alcohol is allowed but people may bring water or other non-alcoholic drinks in plastic bottles or cans and coolers. Glass containers are not allowed. 

Also forbidden are personal stashes of fireworks, including sparklers. 

Folks are urged to bring blankets and chairs to sit on since the gathering is in the grass. They are advised not to bring pets because the noise from the fireworks can disrupt them. 

“It’s very popular,” Llamas said. “It gives the community a place to go here in the East Valley. We always tend to have a good crowd out there.”

To learn more about paid volunteer opportunities at the 4th of July Tempe Town Lake festival, head over to tempe4th.com/volunteer.asp. Volunteer options for the Arizona Celebration of Freedom isat arizonacelebrationoffreedom.com/?page_id=46.

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