Little Rock’s skyline is lighted with colorful fireworks during its annual Pops on the River, which combines a symphonic concert with pyrotechnics. /Arkan-sas Parks and Tourism photo

Big bang theory
Fireworks and festivals will heat up July 4th

Published: May/June 2003
By Deborah Reinhardt
Managing Editor

Strike up the brass bands. Get out the red-white-and-blue bunting. Fire up the grill. It’s the Fourth of July.

OK, it’s the Fourth of July in a couple of months, but now is the time to make travel plans to check out one of these festivals. From big-city fireworks to Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream recipe, our collection of July 4 fun is diverse enough for anyone to enjoy.

Before you make plans, call ahead for updates closer to the event.


In Bentonville, the second annual July Fun 4 All Celebration will be at 4 p.m. on July 4 at Memorial Park. There will be food, games, live music, a family swim and other activities culminating with a spectacular aerial fireworks display. This event is free.

For more information, call Bentonville’s visitors bureau at 1-800-410-2535 or visit online at

On July 4 in Little Rock, Pops on the River combines music by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra with brilliant fireworks over the Arkansas River at Riverfront Park. On the northern bank, view the fireworks and enjoy an audio simulcast. Concessions will be available. This event is free.

For information, contact the North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-643-4690 or visit online. Little Rock’s Convention and Visitors Bureau can be reached by calling 1-800-844-4781 or click on

Some July 4 celebrations have an historical twist. At the Arkansas Post Museum near Gillett, An 1804 Fourth of July is planned for 10 a.m. July 4. Museum Director Pete Jordon said he’ll try to re-create the type of Independence Day observance Arkansasans would have experienced following the Louisiana Purchase in this first-ever event.

There will be a reading of the Declaration of Independence, Colonial games for children–such as sack races or horseshoes–and celebratory toasts. There’s no fireworks because settlers didn’t have bottle rockets in the 19th century. They might have whooped it up by gathering a small pile of gunpowder on an anvil and wacking it with a hammer.

Tastings and copies of an ice cream recipe from Thomas Jefferson will be available. Jordon said it’s a bit syrupy for ice cream but otherwise delicious. This event is free.

For more information, contact the museum at (870) 548-2634 or click on

Events are planned for some of Arkansas’s state parks. At DeGray Lake Resort State Park in Bismarck, the Independence Day Island Festival on July 4 will be an all-American family party. Events include a volleyball tournament, horseshoe tournament, putting contest, free-throw tournament, egg toss, watermelon eating contest, and activities for children. A fireworks display over the lake commences at dusk. This event is free, but donations for the fireworks will be accepted.

For more information, call the park at (501) 865-2801 or click on


As in Arkansas, history will be part of Louisiana’s Independence Day celebrations. One of the best places to watch history come alive is Vermilionville, an Acadian living history museum in Lafayette.

Vermilionville observes the Fourth of July with a southwest Louisiana flair, said Anne Laughlin, marketing manager. The museum is comprised of several historic and replicated buildings that together re-create the old city of Lafayette. It’s fitting, then, that a Fourth of July festival will borrow traditions from 1765 to 1890. There will be children’s games–including marbles made of river clay and Spanish moss jump ropes–music and barbecue.

“It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July anywhere without barbecue,” Laughlin said.

The July Celebration will be from 11 a.m.–3:30 p.m. on July 4. Admission is $5; children 6 and younger are free.

For more information call Vermilionville, (337) 233-4077.

A rip-roaring street festival can also be a great way to spend July 4th. If this is for you, head to Shreveport for its third annual July 4th Celebration on Independence Day. Downtown’s Festival Plaza will be packed with food booths, musical stages, a children’s area, arts and crafts and more. The festivities get underway at 4 p.m. and last until 11 p.m. Fireworks on the Red River start at 9 p.m. This event is free. A free shuttle from Shreve City Mall will run throughout the event. For more information, call Jeri Cobb with the city of Shreveport at (318) 673-7708.

In Alexandria, the Uncle Sam Jam will be held July 3 and 4 at the Red River Levee Park. Sponsored by radio stations KRRV, KZMZ, KKST and KDBS, the event will offer food, music and a kids’ zone for fun. An admission fee had not been set at press time.

For more information, call the radio stations’ offices, (318) 443-7454 or click on www.unclesamjam–

New Orleans celebrates Independence Day with Go Fourth on the River at 3 p.m. on July 4 at Woldenberg Park on the city’s riverfront. Sponsored by riverfront attractions, including the Audubon Institute, the event will feature music on several stages, food concessions plus fireworks shot from river barges at dusk.

For details, call 1-800-774-7394 or click on www.audubon


For 16 years, Greenville has celebrated America with a downtown event at Schelben Park. Music–featuring local and national acts–food, and fireworks get underway at 6 p.m. on July 4. The event is free.

Call the chamber of commerce, (662) 378-3141, for more information.

The All-American Family Picnic will be July 4 in Tupelo. At press time, festivities will kick off at 5 p.m. in Ballard Park. Children’s activities and food will precede the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra’s performance at 8 p.m., with fireworks at 10 p.m. If you choose, bring your own picnic. The event is free.

For more information, call (662) 841-6440.

Not all aerial effects begin and end with a bang. In Ridgeland, for example, the Celebrate America Balloon Glow on July 4 at Northpark Mall will feature 40 hot air balloons. The glow, which kicks off the weekend-long Mississippi Championship Hot Air Balloon Festival, gets underway at dusk. The event is free. For more information, call Ridgeland’s parks and recreation department, (601) 853-2011 or click on

Call the Canton, Miss., parks department for information on the balloon festival, (601) 859-4358.z

St. Louis area prepares for Independence Day

It’s big, busy and has been a part of the Fourth of July in St. Louis since 1981. It’s Fair St. Louis, held July 3–5 at the Gateway Arch grounds.

While there’s a cornucopia of activities, food, music and more throughout the expansive grounds, the festival is known for the outstanding daily air shows, sponsored by Boeing Company, nationally known entertainers and stunning fireworks nightly at 9:40 p.m.

In addition, the 126th Annual Veiled Prophet Parade steps off at 10 a.m. on July 4. Fair St. Louis hours are: 3–10 p.m. July 3, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. July 4–5. Admission is free.

For information, call (314) 434-3434 or click on

History buffs may want to check out An Historic Fourth of July Celebration July 3–5 at the Old Courthouse downtown. Living history portrayals, patriotic music, speeches, ranger programs and refreshments will be offered. Admission is free.

Call (314) 655-1701, or visit /jeff for information.

Haven’t had enough? From the courthouse or Arch grounds, walk to historic Laclede’s Landing for Rockin’ on the Landing, presented by Anheuser-Busch. Music lovers will have four stages to check out, all featuring live national, regional and local bands. It’s July 4 and 5 from 3–10:30 p.m. Admission is free.

For information, call (314) 241-5875 or click on

In historic St. Charles, Riverfest 2003, held at Frontier Park, is billed as a traditional family Independence Day celebration with carnival rides, booths, food and beverages. A parade kicks off the fun at 10 a.m. July 4. The festival runs July 4–6, and fireworks will be shot from barges on the Missouri River at dusk on July 4 and 6. Musical entertainment will be offered in the evening July 5. St. Charles is about 30 minutes west of St. Louis off Interstate 70.

Call 1-800-366-2427 or click on for details.

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