Warm weather is finally here. Baseball games are in full swing. Backyard barbecues are filling the air with smoky, delicious smells. It’s summertime and yet nothing really ushers in summer like July 4.
Some choose to spend Independence Day in the backyard over the grill, but if you seek to get out and about – or at the very least catch a fireworks show – you’ve got several options in the Tacoma area. First and foremost is the massive Freedom Fair at the Ruston Way Waterfront, but it’s not your only option by any means. Celebrations large and small await, and here’s where you can find family fun, holiday happenings and fireworks galore in 2017.
Freedom Fair is the largest July 4th celebration in Pierce County and has even gotten recognition by Discovery.com and Travel Channel as one of the top fireworks displays in the entire country. With more than 125,000 people who show up, it’s kind of a big deal, and with good reason. There’s lots of enjoy all day long, starting at 10:00 a.m. Throughout the day, live music takes place at several stages located up and down the waterfront.
Midday, there’s an air show featuring classic air craft as well as a few guest appearances from JBLM, including roaring jets and usually a hulking military cargo plane (not that most of Tacoma doesn’t get to see those regularly). All day long, vendors and food booths offer up plenty to look at and snack on, and the restaurants along Ruston Way also remain open if you want a sit-down meal. At 10:00 p.m., fireworks light up the sky in one of the largest displays in the state. Views of the show are stellar all along the waterfront so find a piece of grass, a restaurant or a curb and take a seat. Many even watch from yards, homes and sidewalks on the hills up above the waterfront (just make sure to ask permission if you take a seat in someone’s yard). Freedom Fair is a free event, but donations are appreciated.
Wings and Wheels is under the larger umbrella of the Freedom Fair, but is a separate event in a separate location, namely the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor. On July 2 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., the airport’s grounds showcase more than 200 cars and an all-day air show with multiple flyovers and performances. For plane and car buffs, there could hardly be anything better. For everyone else, there are vendors, food, a beer garden and family activities. Tickets to Wings and Wheels are $10 for kids, $15 for military and seniors, and $20 for general admission.
While it’s not officially a July 4 event, Summer Sounds at Skansie is a series of summer concerts with a performance from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. on July 4. The concerts are free, including this one, and take place at Skansie Brothers Park. The location is perfect for pairing with dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants along the harbor.
Cheney Stadium is a great place to get your firework fix throughout baseball season as all home games feature a fireworks show after the game. But on July 3, Cheney Stadium is the place to be if you require a warm-up show to your Independence Day fireworks…and, really, can you ever have too many fireworks? After the Tacoma Rainiers play the Albuquerque Isotopes (game starting at 7:05 p.m.), a special fireworks show will be bigger and better than the usual Friday night fireworks, which are pretty impressive.
While many July 4th happenings are big and bold, Steilacoom’s celebration is a little more small town, a little more old fashioned. The day’s events include a parade, street fair and fireworks at dusk.
Pierce County is in for a treat this year. While the festivities on July 3 are open only to DoD card holders and their families, JBLM’s huge Freedom Fest is open to the public again this year after being open to military members only last year. From 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Freedom Fest fills the grounds of JBLM a full range of fun. Live music will include the Army Band, The Disco Ballz, Darci Carlson and Harmonious Funk. Other entertainment includes wandering artists that range from a juggler to a one-man band to a stilt dancer to a magic show. There’s a car show and rides too, along with plenty of vendors and fair food galore. Of course, at dark, fireworks cap off the night.