If you’re looking for some patriotic partying and big-time pyrotechnics this Fourth of July holiday, here are a few celebrations taking place within 3 hours driving distance of Wichita.
• LibertyFest in Edmond, Okla.
The suburb of Oklahoma City puts on a festival that’s been selected as one of the top 10 places to be in America on the Fourth by CNN and USA Today. LibertyFest features 11 events from June 22 through July 4, ending on the Fourth with an hour-long fireworks show on the University of Central Oklahoma campus, which the festival bills as the largest fireworks display in the Oklahoma City metro area.
About $70,000 worth of fireworks will light up the sky.
“It’s worth the drive,” said Terry Lanham with the Edmond Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “People brag about the fireworks all the time.”
The Independence Day activities start at 9 a.m. with a 2.5-hour parade winding 1.5 miles from the university campus through downtown Edmond, along the former Route 66 and ending back at the UCO campus. The parade is billed as Oklahoma’s largest hometown July Fourth parade.
After the parade, families can take advantage of specials at the city’s aquatic center, Lanham said. Parkfest, which starts at 6:30 p.m. on the university campus, features free watermelon and free activities for the family, including music, inflatables, face-painting and obstacle course for the kids. Concessions are available.
For more information, go to www.libertyfest.org.
• Wild West Festival in Hays
A fireworks show is one highlight of the Wild West Festival in Hays, which is in its 19th year, said Mary Karst, president of the festival committee.
“People sit on the dike and listen to the radio,” as the half-hour show is simulcast to music on a local station, she said. The $20,000 fireworks show, which takes place on the Fort Hays State University campus, starts at 10 p.m.
During the day, kids under age 15 can swim for free from noon to 7 p.m. at the Hays Aquatic Park. Historical interpreter Dave Wood will appear as legendary Wild Bill Hickok, a one-time sheriff in Ellis County, from 1 to 5 p.m. in a free event at the Ellis County Historical Museum,100 W 7th St., Hays.
As Hickok, who had a gambling reputation, Wood will deal faro – a kind of card game – in the saloon and then do a presentation on the Wild West figure at 3 p.m. at the Stone Church. A kids carnival takes place from 6 to 10 p.m.
More activities – including other historical interpretations and nightly concerts featuring country duo Love and Theft, country artist Neal McCoy and rockers Little River Band – are part of the Wild West Festival July 3-6. Concert tickets are $12 in advance for all three concerts, or $20 per concert at the gate.
For more information, go to www.wildwestfestival.com.
• Independence Day at Fort Osage, Mo., and Independence Day at Missouri Town 1855
If you like historical interpretations, head to Sibley, Mo., about 14 miles from Independence, Mo.
Two celebrations there will take you back to the 1800s, according to Gordon Julick, superintendent of historical sites for Jackson County Parks and Recreation.
Fort Osage, founded in 1808 by William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, showcases how the military and the civilians near the outpost would have celebrated Independence Day in 1812. The event features a reading of the Declaration of Independence, patriotic speeches, musket and cannon demonstrations and period cooking.
“There weren’t fireworks that we can document,” Julick said.
About 600 people usually attend the activities from 9 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Admission is $7 with discounts for youth and seniors. No concessions are available.
At Missouri Town 1855 – an attraction similar to Wichita’s Old Cowtown – participants can relive the Independence Day celebrations of an antebellum town in 1855. More than 1,000 people usually attend the event, which includes a small parade at 12:30 p.m. and period enactments. Concessions are available. The events are from 9 a.m. through 4:30 p.m.; $5 admission with discounts for youth and seniors.
You won’t need to miss out on modern-day fireworks, however, if you’re in the area. A community fireworks show takes place the nearby Longview Lake park, with music, entertainment and concessions starting at 6 p.m. Admission is $5 per car.
For more information, go to www.jacksongov.org.
• Star Spangled Spectacular in Overland Park
For a larger fireworks show in the Kansas City area on the Fourth, featuring a night of free concerts with military, country and Motown bands, check out the Star Spangled Spectacular in Overland Park.
The event happens in the city’s 52-acre Founders’ Park in the Corporate Woods complex at 9711 W. 109th St. and tends to draw more than 70,000 people, said event chair Andy Heath, a member of the Overland Park Rotary Club that organizes the event along with the city and other entities. It’s the largest celebration in the Kansas City area and one of the largest in the Midwest, Heath said.
Spectators can bring coolers – no grills or alcoholic beverages – and enjoy a picnic, play Frisbee or do other activities in the park, starting at 4 p.m. Concessions also will be available, with sales benefiting area nonprofits. Kid’ inflatables and other activities, with nominal charges, are available, too.
The main stage concerts start at 5:30 p.m. with a country band. The 55-piece Greater Kansas City American Legion Band takes the stage an hour later, followed by the Motown band, Atlantic Express, at 8:15 p.m. The fireworks show starts around 9:30 p.m. and lasts for about 30 minutes. Atlantic Express retakes the stage following the pyrotechnics and finishes around midnight.
Free parking is available on the Corporate Woods complex.
For more information, visit www.starspangledspectacular,org.
• All-American fare
So what’s more American than a game of baseball? The Kansas City Royals will play a triple-header against the Cleveland Indians July 2-4 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. While there is a 1:10 p.m. game on July 4, the Royals will celebrate the national holiday with special events July 3. The first 10,000 fans will get a free stars and stripes ball cap and a fireworks show will follow the 7:10 p.m. game Wednesday, July 3.
For tickets, go to www.royals.com.