The pursuit of happiness on the Fourth of July

Residents celebrate another year of American independence with champion chili and sparkling skies

Staying home for a holiday weekend has its perks. With a range of Fourth of July events nearby, locals can celebrate our nation's birthday with fireworks on their taste buds along with those up in the air.

For some patriotic fun close to home, folks can attend the 28th annual Summer Festival and Chili Cook-off from noon to 5 p.m. at Mitchell Park, 600 E. Meadow Drive, Palo Alto. Nearly 20 teams will vie for bragging rights in three categories: corporate, open and vegetarian. Awards will also be presented for best-decorated booth, best spirit and people's choice.

Tasting tickets are on sale at noon for $5 for five tastes, and public tasting begins at 1:30 p.m. For those who want to skip the spicy delicacies, the festival also offers live music from Livewire and DJ Efren Ayala, line dancing with Hedy McAdams, kids' activities and food vendors. For more information, call 650-463-4953 or go to

Stanford Lively Arts' annual Independence Day fireworks and concert has been cancelled this year. Campus construction has created fire restrictions that keep the fireworks from happening, so Lively Arts has cancelled the concert as well, with hopes of bringing the celebration back later.

Meanwhile, other Fourth festivities continue, including Menlo Park's annual parade. Families can decorate a bicycle, tricycle, golf cart, wagon or float to participate in a small-town-style celebration. Marchers will set off at 11:45 a.m. from the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot at Santa Cruz Avenue and Chestnut Street. The parade ends in a celebration from noon to 2:30 p.m. at Burgess Park on Alma Street and Burgess Drive. Participants can join in the carnival games, rock-climbing wall, crafts, face painting and food while the high-energy Bay Area band Johnny Vegas and the High Rollers entertains with live music.

A $6 wristband is required for some activities and will be sold at the event. Call 650-330-2200 or go to

A few miles north in Redwood City, residents can partake in the annual Fourth of July parade, festival and fireworks show, which typically attracts approximately 40,000 people.

To start off the day, hungry spectators can grab a pancake breakfast from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Redwood City Fire Department, 755 Marshall St.

For those looking for an early morning jog, the annual 5K Fun Run sets off around the parade route at 9 a.m. from Brewster Avenue and Arguello Street. Pre-race registration will be open June 27 at Road Runner Sports, 1125 Industrial Road, San Carlos. Spots are $15 for adults, $5 for children and $25 for a family pack of three runners or more.

Once the last runner finishes, the 71st annual parade hits the road at 10 a.m. from Brewster Avenue and Winslow Street. Floats, clowns and local community groups will wind their way through downtown, decked out in red, white and blue.

After the parade ends around 12:30 p.m., revelers can enjoy live music at the County Center, check out the car show at the Courthouse Square and browse the booths selling a variety of hand-crafted arts and crafts. A kids' area features face painting and a jump house as well as performances by a clown and a magician.

For some musical action, viewers can check out the ever-popular battle between marching bands from the University of California at Davis and Stanford University. The showdown commences at 1:30 p.m. in the San Mateo Credit Union parking lot at 350 Convention Way.

Once the daylight fades, the nighttime crowds emerge for a fiery spectacle. The fireworks show launches over the water from the Port of Redwood City at 9:30 p.m. Spectators watch the display from downtown or any area west of U.S. Highway 101 from which the skies above the port are visible. For more about the Redwood City festivities, call 650-365-1825 or go to

Also in Redwood City, the San Mateo County Museum at 2200 Broadway St. holds an old-fashioned celebration. Participants can make their own whirligigs, parachutes and American flags to wave at the parade, while sun-drained residents step inside and hand-churn their own vanilla ice cream. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for seniors and students. Call Carmen Blair at 650-299-0104 or go to

For a festival that remembers the past but also celebrates the visionary spirit that stimulated the birth of our nation, locals can head south to the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View for the Radio Disney Fourth of July Fireworks Show with the San Francisco Symphony. The theme for this year's concert is "A Look to the Future," with music including selections from science-fiction movies "Star Wars" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." The symphony will also play works by John Williams, Irving Berlin, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and others.

Actor George Takei, who played Lt. Hikaru Sulu in the original "Star Trek" television and film series, will narrate the show, which begins at 8 p.m.

Doors open at 5 p.m. for the Radio Disney Family Festival, which includes games and live entertainment. Following the concert, the fireworks display explodes across the sky, accompanied by music by the symphony. Organizers recommend biking to the event due to the high turnout expected. Tickets are $24 to $29.50, and four-packs are $69 for lawn seats and $79 for reserved seating. Children ages 12 and under are $15. Call 877-598-6659 or go to


Like this comment
Posted by Collin J
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:30 pm


Congrats on making the front page with your first article for PAO. The content is rich and helpful. It definitely gives people on the Peninsula a lot of low-carbon options to enjoy the holiday.

Write more!

Like this comment
Posted by Chris N
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Go, Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh!

Like this comment
Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 2, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Many neighborhoods also have celebrations. My neighborhood starts the day with a early morning races, then we have our annual parade with floats, a marching band, drill team, and lots of great homegrown fun. Hundreds of residents participate each year. The parade is usually led by the Mayor...and ends with an old-fashioned BBQ picnic in our neighborhood park with field and pool games and loads of fun. This is a real old-fashioned Fourth of July. I love it...and I love spending the day close to home with friends and neighbors.

Happy Fourth!...and thanks to this year's organizers for our neighborhood celebration. We all look forward to this special event. It wouldn't happen without your leadership.

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