Independence Day celebrations to blaze in full color |

Independence Day celebrations to blaze in full color

Andy Stonehouse
Fireworks explode over Boston harbor, Sunday, June 29, 2003, in Boston. Boston began its July 4th celebration with the special fireworks display called "Salute to the Troops." The show was recorded and will be broadcast over the Armed Forces Network to U.S. military personal stationed around the world. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The Vail Valley’s biggest and most unabashedly patriotic holiday of the year looms large on the horizon. And with cooperative environmental conditions – and a bit of welcome cooperation between county governments and local merchants – the fireworks shows that have made the area one of the state’s biggest draws for the Independence Day are once again set to fly on Friday.

Major Fourth of July celebrations will be held in Vail, Avon and in Eagle at the Eagle County Fairgrounds, with family activities, music and plenty of high-flying explosions in each community. Each town’s Fourth of July activities are free and promise to attract huge crowds, although that impressive response has required organizers to make some special arrangements for this year’s celebrations.

Jet fighters over Vail

The weekend’s Vail America Days festivities begin Friday at 10 a.m. with the annual Vail America Days parade starting in Lionshead Village and ending at Golden Peak. The parade should get off to a roaring start at 10:45 a.m., when four F-16 fighter jets from Buckley Air Force Base are scheduled to fly over, from west to east, in a diamond formation. All of the pilots scheduled for the flyover have recently returned from Iraq.

Later in the day, at 3 p.m., is a patriotic concert at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. While tickets this year will be restricted to those holding tickets, the good news they are free, although they’ll have to be picked up in advance.

“That’s a bit of a change from past years – and unfortunately, if people aren’t paying attention, they’ll miss out,” says Suzanne Silverthorn, spokeswoman for the town of Vail. “It’s mostly due to the abundance of people who’ve attended the event in the past. … We just simply run out of room.”

Those who want to grab premium, reserved seating for the concert featuring the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra can receive up to four free tickets per person starting at noon today at the Ford Amphitheater box office. Lawn seating tickets will be distributed on the same basis, beginning at 9 a.m. on Thursday. Due to the amphitheater’s capacity of 2,500, music fans are encouraged to get there early to snap up their seats.

Golden illumination

Vail also welcomes the return of a fireworks show over Golden Peak at 9:45 p.m. Friday. After two years of cancellations, Silverthorn says, there’s some a lot of pent-up anticipation for the show.

“People who’ve been calling to ask about fireworks are very happy to hear that they’re back,” she says. “We were lucky to get the word out in 2002 and think that most people understood, given the dry conditions statewide … although this year the fire chief will still have to make the official call before the show goes on.”

Silverthorn says 2003 also is the third year of Vail’s Fourth of July public safety program, which will see a townwide curfew from 10:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Sunday for unsupervised kids 17 years old and younger. Silverthorn says the restrictions give families plenty of time to catch the fireworks and head home. The July 4 curfew also seems to elicit fewer complaints than the similar New Year’s Eve curfew.

“I think there’s more awareness out there, as I’d guess that 75 to 80 percent of our visitors are repeat visitors who know about the program,” Silverthorn says. “We’re trying to make sure there are no surprises for parents or kids, so we’ve done our best to communicate to people taking part in the lacrosse tournament, plus ads in newspapers and sandwich boards around town. I feel the acceptance has increased every time we roll this program out – especially among those who used to see what happened in Vail in past years.”

“Salute to the USA’ in Avon

In Avon, the fireworks will be flying and the atmosphere especially eclectic as Nottingham Park’s massive “Salute to the USA” gets underway at 4 p.m. And with classic 1970s pop-rockers the Bay City Rollers, featuring original member Ian Mitchell, and up-and-coming Littleton country artist Aubrey Collins providing the musical entertainment, this year’s show promises to be a return to Avon’s traditional packed-to-the-rafters July Fourth celebrations.

Julie Kessenich, special events director for the town of Avon, says major cash injections from the Coors Brewing Co. and WestStar Bank helped get the event rolling again after talk of shelving it for 2003. Coors’ participation also brings a new beer garden, open to adult drinkers from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

As always, the event will feature more than 30 food and crafts vendors and a variety of kids’ activities and games, with free admission to everything. Collins, a teen-aged country performer who’s beginning to make inroads in Nashville, will perform at 5:30 p.m.; Scotland’s most popular musical export, the Bay City Rollers, will help bring back “those memories of Saturday Night” with a show at 7:30 p.m.

Kessenich says the big night will conclude with a laser light show at 9:30 p.m., bridging into a massive fireworks show at 10 p.m.

“As always, we ask that people bring no pets, no alcohol and no personal fireworks,” Kessenich says. “And parking’s still going to be the same first-come, first-served issue it’s been in the past, although we hope to have additional space near Wal-Mart and behind the Chapel Square building. We also ask people who live in Eagle-Vail or Vail to take advantage of Post Boulevard and the new roundabout to get back home.”

Joint celebration downvalley

Downvalley, a new joint celebration organized by the towns of Eagle and Gypsum and Eagle County will bring live music, entertainment and fireworks to the Eagle County Fairgrounds.

“Last year, the dry weather and fireworks ban stopped a group of supporters,” says Eagle Mayor Roxie Deane. “This year’s great weather and interest from new partners have made it possible to plan an even bigger and better event.”

From 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, you can enjoy vendors and music by the Denver Pipe Band and country rocker Walker Williams, followed by a half-hour fireworks show at evening’s end. A growing list of activities includes:

– Posting of the colors by Veterans of Foreign Wars, Mount of the Holy Cross Post #10721

– Free watermelon from 7 p.m. until it runs out

– Food and other local vendors, starting at 5 p.m.

– Military and public safety displays.

“We try to work together all we can down here on the western end of the county,” says Gypsum Mayor Steve Carver. “This is the first year we’ve been able to do this –and we hope that we can do it year after year. We really just want to make it a good, family Western experience.”

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