It’s fireworks time, and America’s night skies are about to light up.
From the sky, the bursts of colored fire probably look nearly the same across the country, but on the ground, Fourth of July traditions vary.
Whether you’re looking for an old-fashioned, rural affair — complete with a watermelon-eating contest — or you prefer a big arts element in your festivities, the greater Tucson area has you covered.
Events are free, but be prepared to pay a nominal fee for parking or busing.
Old-fashioned fun is the theme at Marana’s Star-Spangled Spectacular.
“We offer a very hometown feel,” said Ana Anderson, an organizer of the event. “We really have a sense of family here, and I don’t think you’ll get that at a lot of other events.”
Festivities, which start at 6 p.m. and culminate in fireworks at 9 p.m., will be held at Ora Mae Harn Park, 13250 N. Lon Adams Road.
Featured at the event is an avenue of flags that pays tribute to the various military branches and a wall, reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, where people can write the names of those who have served. Also, people will have an opportunity to fill out thank-you cards, which the Tucson Area Marine Corps Moms will send to troops.
Often, young enlistees gravitate toward the wall, where they find retired military personnel eager to reminisce, Anderson said.
“It’s really neat to watch them talk to each other and to see history passed down,” she said.
The park offers ample grass for picnicking, and those who don’t bring their own baskets will find festival-style fare for sale — hamburgers, pizza, fry bread, roasted corn and a range of frozen treats. Of course, some people will need empty bellies to as to better compete in the event’s watermelon-eating contest.
Entertainment will include an act by Bill Scott, a Marana resident who used to fight fires in Phoenix and now writes songs about water, gun and fire safety, and the country Western band Exit 303, which hails from Benson, a community off Interstate 10 — not surprisingly — Exit 303.
Twelve inflatables, including jumping castles and obstacle courses, will serve the recreational needs of tikes and teenagers, alike, and the main feature — the fireworks show — will involve 25 minutes of explosions at a rate of one every three seconds.
“There won’t be any dead sky,” Anderson said.
Officials are suggesting that people arrive early, as the parking lot most likely will fill by 8:30 p.m. Parking is $5.
For more information, call 382-1999.
If an arty Fourth of July celebration is what you’re after, the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council has your needs in mind.
Although the Tucson Symphony Orchestra won’t offer its traditional patriotic performance in the park this year — the arts council cited budget restraints — other acts will contribute to an evening of fine art.
Festivities will begin at 5 p.m. at Canyon Del Oro Riverfront Park, 551 W. Lambert Lane, and will culminate with a fireworks display to prerecorded music at 9 p.m.
The lineup includes jazz musician Joe Bourne, the Old Arizona Brass Band, the Oro Valley Honor Guard, the Catalina Community Chorus, and a piano-harp duo. A 12-foot screen will project, throughout the park, the happenings onstage.
“It’s free admission, and there’s something for everyone,” said Kate Marquez, the executive director of the arts council.
An instrument petting zoo will offer children the chance to blow horns and pluck strings, and a professional photographer and caricature portraitist will transform families into artwork for a fee.
Food for sale will include festival fare — pizza, fried chicken, barbecued meat and snowballs.
Parking at the event is allowed only for people with disabilities, but all evening, busses will transport people to and from two offsite lots — one at Mercado del Rio at Pusch View Lane and Oracle Road, and one at Ace Hardware at La Canada Drive and Lambert Lane.
Busses are $1 a rider. Officials suggest arriving at the lots before 7 p.m. to avoid bus crowds.
For more information, call 797-3959.
In SaddleBrooke, the two homeowners associations are putting on Fourth of July dinners with entertainment for their residents.
SaddleBrooke HOA 1 plans to shoot fireworks Friday evening. While “it’s not open to the public,” people in SaddleBrooke should be able to watch the display throughout the development, a spokeswoman said.
If you prefer to watch fireworks go off from “A” Mountain with the downtown Tucson crowd, you may want to check out activities at the Tucson Convention Center at 260 S. Church Ave.
Festivities there begin at 6 p.m. and include live music, food, and a classic car show. They are set to culminate with fireworks at 9 p.m. Parking at the convention center is $4.
For more information, call 791-4101 or visit http://www.tucsonconventioncenter.org">www.tucsonconventioncenter.org.