Celebrating the Fourth of July

Americans are blessed as we approach the Fourth of July for many reasons. Only a small one is that our annual celebration of Independence Day occurs as part of an extended holiday weekend once again this year. With the Fourth of July falling on a Monday, many people will use the entire three day weekend not only to commemorate our nation's independence, but also to whoop it up at more than one party.
Here is a look at various events organized throughout Southwest Florida to celebrate Independence Day weekend.

Fort Myers Freedom Fest: Located in the historic river district in downtown Fort Myers, the Freedom Fest gets underway at 1:00pm on July 4, 2011. To start the show, there will be children's play areas and festive music from a dj. At 6:00pm popular local bands including "Deb and the Dynamics" and "Fakahatchee" entertain the crowd. The much anticipated fireworks show over the Caloosahatchee River begins at 9:30pm. The show is free but seats will be available in a preferred viewing area of the Harborside Events Center for $5. Additionally, wristbands will be sold for $10, which offer discounts on food and drink purchased at nearby restaurants and bars.

Miromar Outlets: The annual Independence Day celebration at Miromar Outlets in Estero will actually happen on July 2, 2011. At 6:30pm, crowds can gather at the large outlet mall to watch an exciting show on the lake near Germain Arena. The performance will be put on by the Southern Extreme Waterski Team. Many vendors and kids attractions will be available to keep the crowd buzzing until the fireworks over the lake begin after sunset.

Star Spangled Bonita: This annual free party at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs gets started at 6:00pm on July 4, 2011. There will be live music, waterslides, games, and plenty of children's amusements. Special activities for the whole family include a pie baking cook-off and several eating competitions, where contestants can wolf down countless hot dogs, ice cream, and even watermelon. In lieu of traditional fireworks, Star Spangled Bonita will culminate the celebration with a high powered laser light show after dark.

4th Fest 2011: With so much excitement, two days are needed to celebrate Independence Day weekend properly in Punta Gorda. Held at Laishley Park on the Peace River, the 4th Fest takes place between 10:00am -- 10:00pm on both July 3 and July 4. Organizers are promising "water mania," as the event will feature a dozen waterslides, for which both individual tickets and all-day wristbands are available. Other highlights include a battle of the bands, a Paul Bunyun lumberjack show as seen on ESPN, bounce houses, numerous vendors, food, and beer sales on site. Fireworks begin at 9:00pm. Entry fee is $3 for adults and free to children twelve and under.

Red, White and Boom: This annual free celebration in Cape Coral attracted over 20,000 visitors in 2010. This year's show will be held on July 4 between 4:00pm and 10:00pm on Cape Coral Parkway at the foot of the bridge. The celebration will feature a Family Fun Zone, loaded with activities for children, as well as over 100 vendors offering food, drinks, and souvenirs. The inaugural running of the Freedom 5k over the bridge begins at 6:30pm. Radio station "Cat Country" welcomes country music star, and former Trick Pony singer, Heidi Newfield, who will perform at 8:00pm. On a more serious note, Red, White and Boom will pay tribute to the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Finally, the night concludes with a gigantic fireworks show over the Caloosahatchee River after dark.

City of Naples Fireworks: This fireworks show is an annual event held on July 4th at the Naples Pier. Residents and visitors are invited to bring chairs, towels, blankets, and coolers to the beaches near the pier to watch the biggest fireworks show in Collier County. The show over the Gulf begins at 9:00pm.

Fort Myers Beach Fireworks: The city of Fort Myers Beach invites those seeking a waterfront celebration to come out to the area of Times Square and the Fort Myers Beach fishing pier on July 4. Visitors can bring chairs, towels, blankets, and coolers to the beaches of Lynn Hall Park to watch fireworks over the Gulf beginning 15 minutes after sunset.

Fort Myers Miracle: A great way to catch fireworks for the Fourth of July is to attend a baseball game. The Fort Myers Miracle actually offer two fireworks displays in celebration of Independence Day weekend. Fireworks shows over Hammond Stadium follow both the July 1 game against the St. Luice Mets and the July 3 game against the Charlotte Stone Crabs. Each game begins at 7:05pm and tickets start at $7.50.

Charlotte Stone Crabs: Playing at home in Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte for the Fourth of July, the Stone Crabs will stage a fireworks extravaganza over the ballpark after the game against the Jupiter Hammerheads. Fireworks begin after the end of the July 4th game, which starts at 6:30pm. Tickets are available for as low as $6.00.