Community celebrations | June 29, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - June 29, 2012

Community celebrations

Fourth of July festivities kindle the neighborhood spirit with fireworks, chili, parades and music

by Maytal Mark

What does a chili cook-off have to do with social change? Ask some of the chefs at Palo Alto's Mitchell Park this Fourth of July.

Besides attracting people who just love to cook, the annual Summer Festival & Chili Cook-off has also drawn teams from local non-profits looking to get the word out.

One group taking part this year is Project Safety Net, which was founded in 2009 to implement a community mental-health plan for Palo Alto youth in response to a local cluster of teen suicides. Students will be on the "Asset Builders Chili" team along with adults, promoting the concepts of positive adult role models and youth participation in the community.

"The cook-off is a great tradition, and this team that represents so many parts of the community is an embodiment of the spirit of Project Safety Net and the spirit of the cook-off," said Terry Godfrey, the team's head cook.

The annual cook-off, now in its 31st year, has become a widely attended local event. Eighteen teams are expected to compete this year for awards for best booth, best spirit and, of course, best chili in three divisions. At least five new teams will face off against groups of returning chefs, said Minka van der Zwaag, city supervisor of recreation programs.

The event runs from noon to 5 p.m. on July 4 at Mitchell Park, 600 E. Meadow Drive. There will also be disco, funk, soul and Latin music by the band The Hitmen; line dancing with Hedy McAdams; food vendors; and face-painting and other kids' activities. The Palo Alto Fire Department will display a fire truck. The annual Chili Chase run will not take place this year.

In an attempt to make the event more eco-friendly, no single-use water bottles will be sold. Commemorative stainless-steel water bottles will be for sale.

Admission is free, with a small fee for chili-tasting kits. Tasting starts at 1:30 p.m. For more information, go to or call 650-329-2366.

In other Fourth of July news, Redwood City's annual fireworks are returning. Since 2009, the $50,000 fireworks display has been a casualty of budget cuts, but this year, through public funds and private donations, it will return to the Port of Redwood City. At 9:15 p.m. the port will launch the show, which can be seen from high points all around the Peninsula as well as from a public viewing area along the waterfront off Seaport Court. For more details, go to or call 650-365-1825.

The Redwood City festivities begin at 7:30 a.m. on the Fourth with the annual pancake breakfast hosted by the city's fire department, at Station 9, 755 Marshall St. Breakfast costs $6 for adults and $4 for children, benefitting the Redwood City Firefighters Association.

The city's popular parade, now in its 74th year, starts at 10 a.m. with decorative floats traveling the 1.25-mile route. The course starts on Marshall Street at the corner of Winslow Street and ends near Alden Street. This year's theme is "A Salute to Agriculture," offering a look into Redwood City's history.

Meanwhile, the 26th annual Independence Day Festival goes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on and around Broadway downtown. The festival will include arts and crafts booths; food and drinks for sale to benefit non-profit organizations; and a kids' area with a jump house, clowns, face painting and magician Phil Ackerley. For more, go to or call 650-365-1825.

Also in Redwood City is the Annual Parade Run, a 5K event that benefits the Redwood City Education Foundation. The run starts at 8:45 a.m. at Brewster Avenue and Arguello Street. Information is at

For history buffs, the San Mateo County History Museum at 2200 Broadway will host "An Old-Fashioned Fourth." From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. visitors can hand-churn ice cream and make crafts from the 1880s including whirligigs and parachutes. The event costs $2.50 for adults and $1.50 for seniors and students. Go to or call 650-299-0104.

In addition, a classic car show will be in Courthouse Square from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 650-368-8212.

In Menlo Park, organizers of the annual Fourth parade invite kids with decorated bikes, wagons and floats to march down Santa Cruz Avenue to Burgess Park (701 Laurel St.), where there will be music, games and food. Admission is free and the parade will begin at 11:45 a.m. More information is at

For those interested in the fine arts, the San Francisco Symphony will play at Mountain View's Shoreline Amphitheatre at 8 p.m. Conductor Randall Craig Fleischer will lead a program including works by John Williams and Freddie Mercury as well as music from such films as "Rocky" and "Chariots of Fire." The performance will be followed by a fireworks display. Tickets are $24-$35. Go to or call 415-864-6000.

(The Weekly's cover story this week is about Dan Nitzan, who oversees the fireworks.)

In Woodside, the Woodside Junior Rodeo will host an event for families who are looking for an unusual Independence Day experience. Activities will include roping, women's barrel racing, bull riding, pony rides and a pig scramble, with the doors opening at 8 a.m. and the main events starting at noon. The event will be at 521 Kings Mountain Road. Tickets are $18 for adults and $10 for children. Go to or call 650-851-8300.