This year's Fourth of July activities in Hernando County do not include any public fireworks displays, but that doesn't mean there won't be plenty of ways to celebrate, both here and in neighboring counties.
Just a short drive north to Inverness this evening, and families will have a chance to watch fireworks over Lake Henderson, listen to live music and play games. On Thursday, fireworks will fly at several Pasco County locations, including at the annual Sparklebration in Dade City, which also will feature a sky-diving team jump in the afternoon.
Starting as early as 9:30 a.m. Thursday, spectators can watch — and hear — machine guns destroy an array of vehicles and other targets at the Hernando Sportsman's Club, north of Weeki Wachee.
And for some good, old-fashioned family entertainment, a free Family Fun Day, sponsored by Grace World Outreach Church, will take place Thursday afternoon at Tom Varn Park in Brooksville. The event will include food, face painting, live music and games for all ages.
"We just want to celebrate the day, our freedom and our community," said David Beal, event organizer and outreach director at the church. "This is our way to bring unity into the community and some fellowship. … We're excited."
Here's a rundown of events:
Freedom Festival: Wesley Chapel Fourth of July, 4 to 9 p.m., Shops at Wiregrass, 28211 Paseo Drive, Wesley Chapel. Includes a bicycle-decorating contest, a watermelon-eating contest, the Little Miss and Mr. Firecracker Pageant and fireworks. Free. (813) 994-2242. theshopsatwiregrass.com.
"Patriotic Evening": Fourth of July Celebration, 5 to 10 p.m., Wallace Brooks and Liberty parks, 286 N Apopka Ave., Inverness. Includes live music, children's activities, food vendors and a fireworks extravaganza. Featuring music by the Velvet Jones Band and opening act This Day's Age. New this year is a beer and wine garden. No personal fireworks, alcohol or pets allowed. Free admission and parking. (352) 726-2611. Inverness-FL.gov.
High Point Community Fourth of July Parade: The lineup starts at 8:30 a.m. at the entrance to High Point, near Cortez Boulevard. The parade starts at 9 a.m. and will follow High Point Boulevard to Club House Road, ending at the community center, where there will be a flag-raising ceremony by American Legion Post 186, awards and refreshments. High Point Community Center, 12249 Club House Road, High Point. (352) 596-6006.
Machine Gun Shoot: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Hernando Sportsman's Club, 16121 Commercial Way, north of Weeki Wachee. Cars, trucks and an assortment of other targets will be destroyed. Machine gun owners 18 and older are welcome to participate. No tracers or incendiary ammunition will be allowed. Spectators and shooters should bring their own eye and ear protection, especially for small children. Food and soft drinks will be available for purchase. 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $2 for spectators and free for ages 14 and younger; $20 for shooters. (352) 597-9931. hernandosportsmansclub.com.
Family Fun Day: noon to 4 p.m., Tom Varn Park, 306 Darby Lane, Brooksville. With free food, face painting, games, balloon twisting and live music. Sponsored by Grace World Outreach Church. Free. (352) 796-3685.
Marine Corps League July 4th Indoor Picnic: 1 to 6 p.m., Marine Corps League Detachment 708, 8405 Sunshine Grove Road, west of Brooksville. Featuring entertainment by the DuCaines, a watermelon-eating contest and games. Wings, hamburgers and hot dogs will be available for purchase. Free admission. (352) 597-7979. mcl708.org.
Star-Spangled Bikes on the Bayou: noon to midnight, Gill Dawg Marina, 5419 Treadway Drive, Port Richey. Southern Silk plays from 1 to 5 p.m., and Lost and Found from 6 to 11 p.m. There will also be a bike show from 1 to 5 p.m. Fireworks will start at 9 p.m. Food and beverages will be available. Free admission. Bring blankets and chairs. No outside food or beverages will be allowed. (813) 597-0360. gilldawg.com.
Sparklebration Star-Spangled Spectacular: starts at noon, Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 State Road 52, Dade City. Featuring live music, a food court, watermelon-eating and seed-spitting contests, a hot-dog-eating contest, a sky-dive drop-in, a petting zoo, bounce houses, pony rides, face painting and a fireworks finale. No coolers, alcohol, pets or personal fireworks allowed. Bring blankets and chairs for the fireworks show. Admission is $5; 12 and younger free. $5 per car for parking. (352) 567-6678. sparklebration.com.
Patriotic Family Fun Day: 4 to 8 p.m., Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, 7200 County Road 603, Bushnell. Features horseshoes, corn toss, croquet, badminton and races; live music by the Barking Dogs; relay races; contests; hand-cranked ice cream, and a pet parade. Free admission. (352) 793-4781.