Well, it's a judgment call, but we're going to start out with the fireworks in the fine city of St. Petersburg, at the city's icon, the Pier. There's a full day of family-oriented activities. It starts at noon with Bus Stop, a classic rock band that'll play at The Pier's courtyard stage until 3:00 p.m. Then there's a switcheroo to country-and-western music, with Kim Betts and the Gamble Creek Band. They play from 4 to 7 p.m. Nestled in between the two shows is an act called Baby Grand in the Sand, which is essentially a guy named Joe Lombardo playing his baby grand piano. Lombardo will then play from 7 to 8 p.m., when soulRcoaster takes the stage, playing pop rock hits until 11 p.m. That's the music. There will also be face-painting from noon to 9 p.m. And for those who would like to leave their faces as they are, who would actually like to take their faces and put them on a different body, there's Dance Heads," a video set-up where people can star in their own videos, then take a DVD copy of the video home with them. By the way, you get to pick your own song. This is available from 2 to 5 p.m. Need more? From 1 to 8 p.m., Fritz, a balloon-twisting, unicycle-riding funny man, will be out and about, drawing chuckles from the crowd with his hilarious antics. And the Power Skipper will be there, too, from 1 to 5 p.m. with leaps and bounds almost in Superman's league. There will also be the "One Man Band," who will be strolling about The Pier's grounds from 4 to 8 p.m. That'll take you almost right up to the fireworks, which begin at 9 p.m.
Another city that's taking the time to put together a nice July 4th event is Clearwater. It's at Coachman Park, which, like The Pier, is on the water, the Intracoastal Waterway, to be exact. This free event begins at 4 p.m. There will be lots of children's activities, including games, face-painting and a mascot parade. The Mostly Pops Orchestra, which has some 40 musicians, is scheduled to play at 7 p.m. or so, and they will be accompanied by singers John Wilson, the WTVT Fox 13 anchor, and his wife, Mary K. Wilson, who teaches singing at St. Petersburg College. The fun-filled day will end at 9:30 p.m. with fireworks that are synchronized to music. Clearwater boasts this is the largest fireworks display in the Tampa Bay area. Any questions? You can call (727) 562-4700.
Now, if the Coachman Park fireworks are to your liking, or if you live in Clearwater or north Pinellas, or if you are making the jaunt across Tampa Bay from Hillsborough County, we have a suggestion. Tropics Boat Tours, which is at 25 Causeway Blvd., Slip 5, (or right across from the Pier 60 parking lot in Clearwater) is offering a special July 4th tour. You can go on a sunset cruise aboard Tropics' dandy two-level boat, and catch the fireworks from the boat's second, open top deck. The cruise lasts two and a half hours. Boarding is at 7:30 p.m., with a departure scheduled for 8 p.m. For more information, seeTropics Boat Tours July 4th Cruise
The fireworks at The Pier and Coachman Park are essentially at city parks. If you want to watch fireworks, with your toes in the sand, you have a couple of options. Treasure Island's fireworks are on the beach, at 104th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, and they begin at 9 p.m. St. Pete Beach has fireworks, too. They will be launched from a barge in the Gulf of Mexico, directly west of the Dolphin Village Shopping Center, which is at 4615 Gulf Blvd. The fireworks begin when it gets dark. All the regular beach and parking ordinances will be in effect. Want more information? Call (727) 367-2735.
The big fireworks in Tampa are at Channelside, the residential and entertainment district at 615 Channelside Drive just east of downtown Tampa. They begin at 9 p.m. You might consider watching the display from the Florida Aquarium, which is only charging $10 after 3 p.m. Typically, the aquarium charges $21.95 for an adult. This way, you can avoid the crowds. Another way to view the fireworks is from the Yacht Starship, which is offering a special July 4th cruise and dinner from one of their splendid yachts. Yacht Starship also has a yacht in Clearwater, so you can sign up for a dinner cruise there, and catch the Coachman Park fireworks. For more information, go to: Yacht StarShip
There are also some fireworks in Pasco County, but they are nowhere near the water. One, called Sparklebration, is at the Pasco County Fairgrounds at 36722 State Road 52 in Dade City. Gates open at 4. Admission is $5, parking is $5, but kids 12 and under get in for free. There's a lot going on at this event. Critters to pet. An Elvis impersonator. At least three eating contests (water melon, apple pie and hot dogs). Pony rides. A funny hypnotist. And musical delights such as the fetching Laura Dewees. Bring your lawnchair and blankets, but don't bring any booze or coolers.
There is also another fireworks display in Pasco County, but it's not on the fourth. This one is at Sims Park in New Port Richey's historic downtown, and it's on June 30, from 2 to 11 p.m. There will be arts and crafts on display, a Miss Firecracker contest, and a kids' activity area, plus a bunch of bands, including the nationally-known Aerosmith cover band called Draw the Line. For more information, go to: New Port Richey Main Street
Busch Gardens has the unique distinction of having fireworks on July 4th AND June 30 AND pretty much on every night from June 9th through August 12. It's more of a celebration of the summer than it is a celebration of Independence Day. In fact, it's called Summer Nights. They are set off after that spectacular mix of rock music and acrobatics called Kinetix, that takes place at the Gwazi Park stage. While you are there, try the Cheetah Hunt ride in the dark. Yikes.