Time to break out the sparklers, veggie dogs and sousaphones: July 4 has come around again. And, like a kitsch-fest the Founding Fathers probably never envisioned, this is your annual opportunity to be as red-white-and-blue-wearing, flag-waving, homemade-ice-cream cranking, watermelon-seed-spitting, patriotic-song-singing, family-bonding, parade-watching, Uncle-Sam-hat-sporting, kiddie-pool-wading, rocket-lighting, grill-dominating hokey as you want to be. (And by hokey, we mean totally cool.)
Independence Day tends to be the territory of backyards and decks, but should you want to scorch your dogs and hula your hoops in the vicinity of other revelers, Xpress has a lineup of places where you can do just that. There's a little something for everyone here, from West Asheville's decidedly Americana take on an all-American holiday, to the city of Asheville's Fourth of July-meets-Shindig-on-the-Green festivity. Or, head for street dances, antiques fairs, car shows, cookouts, 5K races, a powwow and — of course — plenty of fireworks.
Where to dance away your red, white and blues:
• West Asheville Freedom Fest might take the prize for the longest-running (that's hours, not years) patriotic party. The inaugural event will run from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, half indoors and half outdoors. Groove to live music from dirty-tonk innovators The Trainwreks, the rough-hewn Americana of Pierce Edens and the Dirty Work, indie-rockers The Whappers, more bluegrass from Town Mountain, gritty gospel a la David Earle and The Plowshares, honky-tonk and country from Cary Fridley and Down South, country-gothic outfit Suttree, Americana folkies The Honeycutters, punk-twang act Tony Wain and the Payne, Americana group Tennessee Hollow and country-rock quintet The Humbuckers. The festivities are held next to and at West Asheville's Rocket Club. Daytime events are free; Rocket Club events run $12. And it's all for a good cause: Proceeds benefit beautification projects in West Asheville. Info: 505-2494.
• The Ingles 4th of July Celebration is held in conjunction with the kickoff of Shindig on the Green (Asheville's free summer-weekend bluegrass jam, now in its 42nd year). What better way to celebrate all things American than with clogging, old-time string bands, ballad singers and storytellers? Bring the whole family; Shindig gets going at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. But there's no need to wait until after dinner for the pickin' portion of the evening. Afternoon events start at 4 p.m. with music from Whiteacre, free patriotic children's craft projects, free face painting, old-fashioned family games, inflatable rides, Clear Channel giveaways and food vendors. Wrap it all up with a fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. Free. Info: 259-5800 or www.ashevilleparks.org.
• In Black Mountain, high-energy bluegrass outfit Town Mountain, bluesy crooner Ian Thomas, and Jane and Anna from The Barrel House Mamas play the Great American Roots Revival (previously slated for the Swannanoa 4H Center, now to be held at White Horse Black Mountain). The fun starts at 3 p.m. with a set from Town Mountain and there will be break at fireworks time, so everyone can step outside and see the display. The all-day event will feature music, pizza, local brews and more; organizers hope it will be the first in an annual series of roots music celebrations. $12 adults, $5 children. Info at 669-0816 and www.whitehorseblackmountain.com.
• Maybe not so much for dancing, but definitely in the spirit: The Junaluska Singers perform a mix of patriotic anthems, gospel tunes, folk songs, Broadway numbers and more, at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center's Stuart Auditorium. Shows are 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 3, and Saturday, July 4. Saturday's show ends just in time for Lake Junaluska's fireworks display. $15 adults, $6 for children six and younger. Info at 452-2881.
Where to show your civic pride:
• It was the party that almost didn't happen, after the town of Weaverville cancelled its annual fireworks display and Fourth of July celebration because of budget cutbacks. But community organizer Randy Bassham and the Multi Purpose Athletic & Community Complex stepped in, along with a host of volunteers and sponsors, to take up the 4th of July Block Party. Get a running start: The North Buncombe Kiwanis' 15th annual Firecracker 5K race starts and finishes at the party site — North Buncombe High School's soccer practice field. The event doubles as a fundraiser for the North Buncombe High School Band Boosters and many area churches. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., it's nonstop free music and activities. Bands include eclectic collective Jen and The Juice, perennial faves Firecracker Jazz Band, bluesy teens Skinny Legs & All, Tennessee Jed, Locomotive Pie, The Buddy Davis Band, Dave Wendelin and Roberto Hess. Look for sports demonstrations by Asheville Lacrosse, Asheville Aerial Arts, Aerial Trapeze Academy, Weaverville Futbol Club, the North Buncombe Youth Athletic Association and performances by Blue Ridge Rollergirls, Asheville Puppetry Alliance, Asheville Hula Dancers, clowns, mimes and magicians. If all that isn't enough to light up partygoers, the end-of-the-evening fireworks are sure to do the trick. Free. Info at 645-2030.
• Heart of Brevard's 4th of July Celebration is all all-day, all-American affair. Things commence with a bang — that would be the 8 a.m. start gun for the 5 and 10K Firecracker Run, organized by the Brevard Rotary Club. Then it's the Transylvania Community Arts Council's 37th annual Fine Arts & Craft Showcase (downtown streets are blocked off) and the Transylvania Cruisers' Classic Automobile Show of 1920s to 1970s vintage vehicles. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., catch a bevy of bands (Brian Phillips All Stars, McDan and the Hands, R.B. Stone, Tuckers Town, Pyramid Brass and Blackjack). There are also kids' activities and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Info at 884-3278.
• The July 4th Festival in Leicester, which runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., includes traditional music by Squire Parsons, the Leicester Community Choir and Mountain Thunder Cloggers. Picnic foods are on the menu for $5 (adults) and $3 (kids). It all happens at the Leicester Community Center. Info: 774-3000.
• Support your local businesses with four days of Independents Celebrate Independence in downtown Asheville. Longtime faves Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Downtown Books & News, Bloomin' Art, Laurey's Catering, Mast General Store and Tops for Shoes celebrate with a week of discounts, sales and giveaways. Info at www.malaprops.com.
Where to spot a marching band:
• Fabulous Fourth Celebration in Hendersonville gets underway at 11 a.m., with an Independence Day Parade on Main Street. Info: 692-4179. At 4 p.m., join the celebration at Jackson Park with crafters, food, children's activities, an antique car show, music, and fireworks at dusk. Info: 697-4884.
• The Montreat Parade is free and open to public and starts struttin' at 10 a.m. Info: 669-8002.
• OK, it's not even close to a marching band, but Brevard's kids-only Bicycle Parade at 1 p.m. packs its own festive punch. Children can decorate and ride their favorite bicycles (helmets are required) and compete for the Most Patriotic, Most Creative and the Most Unusual awards. Info: 884-3278.
Where to watch fireworks:
• Black Mountain gets celebratory with a street dance and fireworks display. 9:30 p.m. Info: www.exploreblackmountain.com or 669-2300.
• The 4th of July Powwow in Cherokee is replete with authentic Indian dancing, drumming and tribal regalia. $10 gets you into the festival grounds. Stay for free after-dusk fireworks (around 9:30 p.m.) at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds. Info: 438-1601 or www.cherokee-nc.com.
• Lake Julian Fireworks display, sponsored by Buncombe County Parks, Greenways and Recreation, is a free show. Park at the nearby Estes Elementary and ride a shuttle into the park. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and munchies (or come early and make use of the picnic tables and grills). Fireworks start after dark. Info at 684-0376 or www.buncombecounty.org.
• Mix it up, go somewhere different for the day. It's a great weekend to explore, and most of the area's towns have activities planned for daytime Saturday and into the evening. Catch after-dusk fireworks displays in Hendersonville, at Brevard College, in Weaverville (645-2030), in Dillsboro, in Black Mountain, in Marion and more.
Where to rock out after hours:
• The Grove House in downtown Asheville is hosting a night of Fourth of July entertainment featuring live music and performances throughout the complex. Ten bucks gets you access to all three venues, including music from pop-rock fave Stephanie Morgan Quartet, alternative-rock band Wax Poets and indie-rock band Cashmere Blackout, aerials and belly dancing performances by the Libravado Sisters and hula hoop dancing by Asheville Hoops. Multiple DJs, VJs and spotlight drag shows by Scandals Nightclub's famous house cast will entertain you throughout the night. Doors open at 9 p.m. $10. www.elevenongrove.com.
• Indie-pop trio Now You See Them takes the stage at the Town Pump in Black Mountain with The Armadillos. 8:30 p.m. Info: 669-4808 and www.myspace.com/townpumptavernllc.
• Intrepid local bluegrass act Sons of Ralph shows off its pickin' skills at Jack of the Wood. 9 p.m. Info: 252-5445 or www.jackofthewood.com.
• Get in the summer groove with beach music outfit Chris Cates & the MasterPlan, performing at College Street Pub's 4th of July Party. 9:30 p.m. Info: 232-0809.
• "What better way to celebrate the birthday of our fine nation than to dance to some good old-school country?" asks local musician Uncle Dave, who fronts The Smoky Mountain Escort Service. The band sets the festive mood at Westville Pub, starting at 10 p.m. Info: 225-9782 or www.westvillepub.com.