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Celebrating the stars and stripes


From Acton to Rosamond, a number of popular Independence Day events will take place next week in the Antelope Valley. The region has always hosted traditional activities in celebration of our nation’s founding, and this year will be no different, as barbecues will blaze, bands will blare, fireworks will fascinate and parades will promenade down local streets.

•The Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, 2551 West Avenue H, Lancaster, will host one of the Southland’s biggest fireworks displays on July 4, beginning at 9:15 p.m. The yearly festival begins a few hours earlier when Jacob Nelson and the Tone Wranglers take the stage at 5 p.m., followed immediately by the Professional Bull Riders Association show in the stadium at 7 p.m. Tickets for the evening begin at $5. For more details, call (661) 273-1336 or (661) 948-6060.

•Lancaster Cemetery, 111 E. Lancaster Blvd., will present its annual pancake breakfast on July 4 from 8 to 11 a.m. For more information, call (661) 942-6110.

•California City Central Park, 10460 Heather Ave., California City will have special July 4 pool hours from 1 to 7 p.m. Also, a live DJ will play all the top tunes under the park pavilion beginning at 6:30 p.m., all in preparation for the annual fireworks show at 9 p.m. This year, half of the funding for the day’s events came from the city, with the other half contributed from private donations. For more details, call (760) 373-3530.

•The Palmdale Chamber of Commerce will host its annual fireworks sale from noon to 10 p.m. beginning today through July 4 at the Walmart parking lot, 40130 10th St., in West Palmdale. For details, call the chamber at (661) 273-3232. Palmdale is the only city in the Antelope Valley  that can legally sell “safe and sane” fireworks for private use. Controversy has developed this year between Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris and Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford regarding the latter city’s fireworks sales. In a letter Parris sent last month to the Palmdale City Council, he cited the recent Powerhouse Fire and “red flag” conditions throughout the region as a reason why Palmdale should halt sales for the 2013 holiday.

•The city of Tehachapi will host a fireworks exhibition at 9 p.m. at Tehachapi Airport. Viewing will be available at nearby Coy Burnett Stadium on the grounds of Jacobsen Middle School, 711 Anita Drive. Philip Marx Central Park, at Mojave and East E streets in Tehachapi, will host its annual July 4 party from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Food and crafts vendors will be there, along with a number of musical acts. For more details, call (661) 822-2200.

•Acton will host Independence Day festivities at NARA Park, 25 Ledge Rock Way, beginning at 3 p.m. with “Family Fun Time.” In the afternoon, visitors can purchase an “all-you-can-ride” bracelet for $5, admitting you to the “moonbounce houses,” an inflatable obstacle course, a “slip `n slide,” a water slide and a 65-foot jumbo slide. A train ride will be available for another $3. A free concert featuring “Beatlejuice” will follow at 6:30 p.m., with a fireworks show taking place at dusk. Shuttle buses will be available at 3 p.m. to take guests to and from NARA Park to an off-site parking site on Nagog Park Drive.

Fireworks, particularly the illegal use, is a sensitive matter among Southern California municipalities because people often purchase them in a community that can legally sell them, but proceed to set them off in a community that forbids their use. The controversy between Palmdale and Lancaster elicited a press release from Palmdale City Hall on June 19 explaining exactly where fireworks are not allowed: beginning at the intersection of Rancho Vista Boulevard and 30th Street West; areas south and west of Rancho Vista Boulevard, north to Avenue N-8; south and west of Avenue N-8 from Rancho Vista Boulevard to 55th Street West; west of 55th Street West; and south from 55th Street West to 60th Street West (Godde Hill Road).

“We’ve developed an interactive map on our website,, that allows residents to enter their address so they can see if they live in a ‘no fireworks area’ where ‘Safe and Sane’ fireworks are not allowed,” said John Mlynar, Palmdale communications manager. “Residents may also call our Community Preservation office at (661) 267-5234, or our Public Safety Department at (661) 267-5181 and our staff will assist them.”

Fireworks sales usually benefit smaller municipalities, churches and various charitable organizations. This year many budgets are tight because of the economic downturn,  as donations have fallen off; the various groups hope to shore up their budgets to continue to provide needed assistance to their communities. Among the 41 Palmdale nonprofit organizations which have been approved to sell fireworks to persons 18 years and older are:

•American Indian Little League (39626 10th Street West)

•American Legion Post No. 348 (39445 10th Street West)

•Antelope Valley Youth Athletics Inc. (4644 E. Avenue S)

•East Palmdale Foursquare Church (in front of Albertson’s at 5038 W. Avenue N)

•Kawanis Club of Palmdale West (39940 10th Street West)

•Palmdale Elks Lodge No. 2027 (37959 47th Street East)

•Palmdale Little League (38137 47th Street East)

•St. Mary’s Catholic Church (2616 E. Palmdale Blvd.)

•Victory Outreach (2053 E. Palmdale Blvd.)

All the groups had to pass an inspection by the Los Angeles County Fire Department before the city’s Community Preservation Division could issue a permit. Educational flyers are distributed with each purchase. The sales dates begin today from noon to 10 p.m., tomorrow through July 4 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on July 5 from 10 a.m. to noon. Illegal use can result in a fine of up to $2,500.

“They’re never earth-shattering sales, but the money does help us provide for member services and community outreach,” said Dan Harrison of Palmdale Elks Lodge No. 2027. “We’ve been doing this for 50 years; the Elks nationwide have a proud history of community service, and the fireworks sales, whatever the final total, are always put to good use in the community.”

A similar story is told at Victory Outreach where a representative, “Michelle,” said the funds can go a long way toward providing for the less fortunate. “Yes, we’re out at the booth today and encourage Palmdale residents to stop by and support us. We use these donations to do street crusades, institute gang-prevention programs, domestic violence awareness and many other issues of concern in our community,” she explained.

The Palmdale department of public safety and community relations suggests that once fireworks are purchased and used in an approved area, you follow these important safety tips:

•Always read directions and use common sense

•Have an adult present

•Use outdoors only (away from buildings, vehicles, dry grass and other flammable objects)

•Light one at a time, then move away quickly

•Keep others at a safe distance

•Never point or throw fireworks at another person

•Never alter or take apart fireworks

•Do not give fireworks to young children

•Have a bucket of water handy for emergencies and for dousing misfired and spent fireworks

Many nations celebrate an independence day, but Americans recognize the “Fourth of July” as the anniversary of the publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Patriotic displays and family events are organized nationwide and many people display the American flag on their homes. The various parades, speeches, concerts and fireworks displays have deep roots in the American tradition of political freedom.

Few people will work on Independence Day (a federal holiday) when families celebrate with picnics and barbecues, watermelon or hot dog eating contests, softball games, three-legged races and tug-of-war challenges. After a day of fun and feasting, Americans traditionally attend a local fireworks show or will simply relax in front of the TV and enjoy one of the national fireworks spectaculars such as the famous New York Harbor show. Many politicians appear at public events to show their support for the history, heritage and people of the United States of America.

In 1775, citizens of New England began fighting the British for their independence. On July 2, 1776, the Congress secretly voted for independence from Great Britain, with Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence published two days later in Philadelphia, Pa. The first reading was on July 8, 1776, and the initial signing—from Samuel Adams of Massachusetts to William Whipple of New Hampshire—took place on Aug. 2, 1776. The first description of how Independence Day should be celebrated was in a letter from John Adams to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almightly. It ought to solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Adams was off by two days, but from the outset Americans have celebrated independence on July 4, rather than the day independence was approved. The term “Independence Day” was not used until 1791.

Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and American presidents, died on July 4, 1826—exactly 50 years after adoption of the declaration. Also, the construction of the Erie Canal (1817) and the Washington Monument (1848) each began on July 4. The Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island in New York, the capital building in Washington, D.C., and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay are commonly associated with Independence Day and often serve as a backdrop to fireworks shows.

Bristol, R.I., plays host to the nation’s oldest July 4 parade and celebration; it began in 1785. Seward, Neb., has held a celebration on the same town square since 1868, and, since 1916, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has been held at Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y. Beginning in 1970, the annual 10-kilometer Peachtree Road Race has been run in Atlanta, Ga., and the Boston Pops Orchestra has hosted a music and fireworks show annually since 1973.

One of the most famous Boston Pops concerts took place in 1976, upon the nation’s bicentennial, when legendary conductor Arthur Fieldler came out of retirement to lead the crowd in “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Also, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., “A Capitol Fourth,” a free concert, precedes the fireworks and attracts more than a million people annually. Neil Diamond will headline the event this year.