In 1777, the freshly minted United States celebrated its first anniversary in a manner fit for the vision that Founding Father John Adams had predicted the year before in a letter to wife just after signing the Declaration of Independence — that the holiday would be “solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward and forever more.” In Bristol, Rhode Island there were 13 gunshots in the morning and evening of July 4, 1777 (for the 13 colonies), and Philadelphia hosted an official dinner for the Continental Congress, fired off more 13-gun salutes, and celebrated with speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews and, of course, fireworks.
Since then, we’ve dropped the public gun salutes (not safe) but we still celebrate the Fourth of July with explosions in the sky, just of the more colorful variety (decently safe). In 2014, Americans spent $257.8 million on fireworks (with only 10,500 reported injuries) and we’ll be doing it again in 2016. Here are some local Fourth of July spectacles to satisfy all your flag-waving and “illuminations” inclinations all weekend long.
FRIDAY, JULY 1
Northside Fourth of July Carnival and Parade — Fire-breathers and sword-swallowers might not be typical of Fourth of July celebrations, but such spectacles are the stuff of normalcy at the Northside Rock n’ Roll Carnival. An extension of a Northside Business Association fest in place since the early ’80s, the 10th-annual carnival descends on Hoffner Park Friday and keeps things rolling through Monday. The aforementioned performers star in a carnival sideshow, and the park’s pavilion transforms into an urban beer garden. But the heart of the event is its diverse lineup of mostly local Rockers, with performances taking place daily. This year’s artists include the Yugos, Leggy, Mad Anthony, Tweens and Electric Citizen, among many others. Northside’s must-see Fourth of July parade — one of the most colorful and unique in the city — begins promptly at noon on Monday; expect flag-twirlers, elaborate costumes, impressive props, creative floats and plenty of surprises. Carnival Friday-Monday; parade begins at noon Monday. Free. Hamilton Avenue, Northside, northsidejuly4.com.
Newport Motorcycle Rally — Nothing says America quite like beer, bikes and fireworks. The Newport Motorcycle Rally is a weekend-long celebration of motorcycles and motorcycle culture with live music, food, charity rides and a contest Saturday with awards for the best-looking bikes. Bands performing throughout the weekend include Jay Jesse Johnson, Swan, Kerosene Alley and more. And there will be a special fireworks display over the Ohio River on Sunday night. 7-11 p.m. Friday; 2-11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 1-9 p.m. Monday. Free. Festival Park, Riverboat Row, Newport, Ky., newportmotorcyclerally.com.
City of Independence Fourth of July Celebration — The aptly named city of Independence, Ky. celebrates the Fourth with two days of events. On Friday, there will be food, rides for kids, live music, a beer garden and a lantern launch on 10 p.m. On Saturday there will be a car show in the Kroger parking lot, followed by a parade, more food, rides and live music and a fireworks display at 10 p.m. 5-11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Saturday. Free. 2001 Jackwoods Parkway, Independence, Ky., cityofindependence.org.
SATURDAY, JULY 2
4th of July Jam — Washington Park is throwing an Independence Day bash with live music, carnival games, food trucks and, of course, fireworks. Music will be provided throughout the day from bands including Majestic Man, Love Alive and Subterranean, and fireworks will light up the night sky at 9:50 p.m. Find local craft beer at the park’s concession stand and food from trucks including SugarSnap!, The Chili Hut and Harvest Mobile. Music starts at 3 p.m. Saturday. Free admission. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.
Kings Island Fourth of July Fireworks — An impressive and colorful explosion of fireworks — three times the size and scope of the park’s traditional display on Saturday and Sunday and 10 times(!) the pageantry on July 4. The park will be open to midnight for extra ride time, and will be offering free admission to active and retired U.S. Military all weekend (valid ID required). 10 a.m.-midnight Saturday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday; 10 a.m.-midnight Monday. Free with park admission; $64 at the gate. 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason, visitkingsisland.com.
Patriotic Pops — John Morris Russell and the Cincinnati Pops partner with the USO for an evening of song, dance and Independence Day traditions. Tickets to Patriot Pops include free admission to Coney Island and its classic rides all day. 8 p.m. Saturday. $5-$40. Riverbend, 6295 Kellogg Ave., California, cincinnatisymphony.org.
City of St. Bernard Fireworks — Festivities begin with a Firecracker Run at 9:30 a.m., followed by a cupcake-eating contest at 3 p.m., and a cornhole tournament, barbecue, rides, beer and DJ music. The celebration ends with a fireworks display at 10 p.m. 3 p.m. Saturday. Rain date is July 3. Free. Ross Park, St. Bernard, cityofstbernard.org.
SUNDAY, JULY 3
Independence Day Celebration at Fountain Square — Fireworks exploded over the streets of downtown to wrap up Fountain Square’s Independence Day festivities. Earlier in the afternoon, popular indie art fair Art on Vine will take over the square for a craft market, then starting at 7 p.m., live bands, including headliner Thunderstruck: The Ultimate AC/DC Tribute, will play on the main stage. Find beer, wine and other concessions to cheers to the fireworks display at 9:45 p.m. Bands start at 7 p.m. Suday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.
LaRosa’s Balloon Glow — Fireworks won’t be the only thing lighting up the sky Sunday at Coney Island: a dozen or so tethered hot air balloons of every color will illuminate the night sky for a spectacular glowing display. The 17th-annual Balloon Glow includes live music in Moonlite Mall, stiltwalkers, jugglers, access to Coney’s classic rides and a Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks display over Lake Como at 10 p.m. Party starts at 5 p.m. Sunday. $9 parking until 2 p.m.; $12 parking after 2 p.m. Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, coneyislandpark.com.
MONDAY, JULY 4
Red, White and Blue Ash — Red, White and Blue Ash is one of the most popular celebrations in town — like 130,000-people popular — and for good reason: it offers plenty of food, drink, music and a dazzling fireworks display. Eagles tribute band Hotel California takes the stage at 5:30 p.m., leading up to headliners Styx at 8:15 p.m. For the second year in a row, the event will be held at Blue Ash’s ever-growing Summit Park, allowing even more room for food, booze, people and pups. Settle in for some Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks beginning at 10 p.m.; bring your own blanket or lawn chair (and stake out a spot ASAP). 4-10:35 p.m. Monday. Free. Summit Park, 4335 Glendale Milford Road, Blue Ash, blueashevents.com.
Ault Park Fireworks — The 51st-annual Ault Park Fireworks display is an all-day Fourth of July festival full of family-friendly activities, live music and concessions with hot dogs, ice cream, lemonade and barbecue — all bookended by a morning children’s parade at 11 a.m. and Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks at 10 p.m. Parade registration begins at 10:30 a.m. Monday. Free. Ault Park, 5090 Observatory Circle, Hyde Park, aultparkac.org.
Stricker’s Grove Fourth of July Celebration — Anyone who’s ever wished to own their own amusement park might look to Stricker’s Grove with envy — the family-owned, 25-acre park is closed to the public for the vast majority of the year. The Fourth of July is one of the few exceptions. Rides will be in operation beginning at 3 p.m., leading up to a fireworks display at sundown. Wooden rollercoaster The Tornado, completed in 1993, was constructed by park owner Ralph Stricker — the only person in the United States to build his own roller coaster. Other rides include a nostalgic Ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl, train, pirate ship and merry-go-round. 2-11 p.m. Monday. Free admission; $5 parking; $1.75 individual ride ticket; $15 unlimited rides. Stricker’s Grove, 11490 Hamilton Cleves Road, Hamilton, 513-521-9747, strickersgrove.com.
Independence Day Celebration Festival in Montgomery —A festival and parade for kids and families. The fest features an All-Star baseball game, a bounce house, pony rides, food like hot dogs and corn on the cob, and a themed parade that starts at Sycamore High School. 10 a.m.-noon parade; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. festival Monday. Free. Montgomery Park, 10101 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, montgomeryohio.org.