This week's official start of summer means it's time to make those summer plans, including how and where to celebrate the country's next big holiday. Independence Day falls midweek this year so some local celebrations will get a jump on the festivities with patriotic offerings starting the weekend of June 30. Check out the following events to see what's on the agenda besides that backyard barbecue and make plans to join the fun.
- Friendly Kia Fest/Main Street Blast, 2 to 11 p.m. June 30 in Sims Park, downtown New Port Richey. Food, entertainment, arts and crafts, kids' activities (including water slide), Miss Firecracker contest and fireworks. Music includes headliner Draw the Line, an Aerosmith tribute band; plus Jam Sandwich, Circle Sky and That 70s Band. Free. Note: Volunteers are needed to help throughout the event. To sign up, call the New Port Richey Main Street office at (727) 842-8066.
- The Angelus fourth annual Family, Fun, Fireworks Extravaganza, June 30 at the Angelus House, 12413 Hudson Ave., Hudson. Gates open at 2 p.m.; bands start at 3:30 p.m.; fireworks at 9 p.m. Food, beverages, games. Cost is $10 per carload; $2 per person walk-in. Proceeds benefit the Angelus House for severely handicapped adults.
- Freedom Festival, 4 to 9 p.m. July 3 at the Shops at Wiregrass, 28211 Paseo Drive, Wesley Chapel. Bicycle parade, contests and prizes, band competition, shopping, dining specials and a Grand Finale Show starting at 9 p.m.
- Sparklebration, an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration hosted by the nonprofit Pasco County Fair Association, will begin at 4 p.m. July 4 at the Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 State Road 52, Dade City. Concessions, food-eating contests and lots of activities for the kids. Entertainment includes musical guests Ken "Elvis" Grube, Dennis Lee, Nashville recording artist Ashley Shannon and Borderline. Skydivers from Skydive City in Zephyrhills drop in at 6:30 p.m. Fireworks at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults; children 12 and younger are free. Parking is $5.
- Celebrate Port Richey is planning a July 4 fireworks show at Waterfront Park, 8119 Old Post Road. The fireworks will go off after sundown, but get there early to find parking and a good view of Miller's Bayou.
Over the border
- Olde Tyme Celebration, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 30, Hernando County Fairgrounds, 6436 S Broad St., Brooksville. Pancake breakfast, water games, vendors, cake walk, food and carnival games. Fireworks display at 9:15 p.m. Parking is $5 per carload. Admission is free. For information, call (352) 796-4552.
- Patriotic Evening, 5 to 10 p.m. July 3 at Liberty and Wallace Brook Parks in downtown Inverness. Fireworks, concessions and children's activities. Parking and admission are free. For information, call the city of Inverness at (352) 726-2611 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- High Point Community July Fourth Parade, July 4. Lineup starts at 8:30 a.m. at the community bus stop near Cortez Boulevard and ends at the community center at 12249 Club House Road, High Point. Cash prizes to winners in various categories. To be part of the parade, complete and return registration (available at the guard house) by Monday. For information, call Sylvia Pistorius at (352) 596-6006.
- Machine Gun Shoot, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 4, Hernando Sportsman's Club, 16121 Commercial Way, north of Weeki Wachee. Those who own machine guns can participate for $20. Several cars, trucks and assorted targets will be destroyed. Spectators, $2; youth under 15 are admitted free. Call (352) 597-9931 or visithernandosportsmansclub.com.
- Patriotic Picnic in the Park, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 4 at Craig Park in Tarpon Springs. Live music, waterslide, free food, game area featuring horseshoes, badminton, volleyball; hot dog-eating contest, plastic hoop contest, watermelon seed-spitting contest, sack races, balloon-launching contest, bubble gum-blowing contest; and outrigger rides in the bayou (children must be accompanied by an adult). Free.