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PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THREE DAYS OF JULY 4TH CELEBRATIONS DO DECLARE!

You can go to any big city Fourth of July festival and find famous bands, a vast array of foods and huge fireworks shows, but the organizers of "Clearwater Celebrates America" say their city is tops in patriotism.

From the patriotic music of the Mostly Pops Orchestra to the Taste of America Food Expo, Clearwater's three-day festival is true red-white-and-blue.

"People expect a patriotic show and patriotic fireworks, it's one of those traditions people like. It's the one day a year they want it," said Terry Schmidt of Clearwater Festivals Inc., which began the Independence Day festival in 1991. The non-profit organization puts on the festival each year at Coachman Park in cooperation with the City of Clearwater.

This year's turnout is expected to be about 80,000, better than last year when persistent rains kept some people away.

This year's musical lineup features three national recording acts: the re-formed band Three Dog Night, whose song, Joy to the World was a hit in 1971; The Turtles with Flo and Eddie, who recorded several hits including It Ain't Me Babe and Happy Together between 1965 and 1970, and a new incarnation of The Mamas and the Papas, (California Dreamin,' Monday, Monday) with original member John Phillips.

"It will bring back a lot of memories for a lot of people," said Schmidt.

The musical entertainment also includes several renowned regional acts. The Saints, the Sevilles and the Streetlights perform Sunday afternoon; Kathy McAbee and Airtight, the Buddy Verdi Orchestra and the International Masterworks Chorus of Tampa Bay perform on the Fourth. A patriotic musical program with the Mostly Pops Orchestra and singing duo John and Mary K. Wilson, precedes Tuesdays' fireworks show.

Sunday's highlight is the Big Bang Car Show, featuring 250 classic cars from across the state. Continuing the patriotic theme Monday is Family Fun Time and a Community Awareness Expo.

All three days feature exhibitor booths and activities in Coachman Park, and the "Taste of America Food Expo" with dishes from area restaurants.

This year's festivities cost $82,000, with $10,000 coming from the city and the rest raised by Clearwater Festivals Inc.

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