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The 209 lets freedom ring

The Fourth of July highlights the best of America — communities coming together to celebrate a shared love of country with food, parades and awe-inspiring fireworks displays. Communities in the 209 will be putting their patriotism on display this holiday with a number of parades, festivals and even a few old-fashioned watermelon eating contests.

The community of Atwater in Merced County has been hosting a Fourth of July celebration since 1959. Although volunteer organizer Greg McDaniel characterized the event as a "peaceful, old town kind of day...neighbors meeting up with neighbors," the town more than doubles its population every July 4.

"There were about 10,000 people 20 years ago, and now it's common for us to hit 50,000," said McDaniel.

After a five year hiatus, a Fourth of July fireworks show will once again be welcomed at California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock, thanks to a collaborative partnership between the Turlock Chamber of Commerce, the university and the City of Turlock.

“We’re really excited to partner with the university because it’s such a wonderful venue,” said Sharon Silva, president and CEO of the Chamber. “It’s great to bring the event back to campus, where it started decades ago.”

CSU Stanislaus President Joseph F. Sheley is not only excited to welcome back the longstanding fireworks show to campus, but to continue building an enduring relationship between the university and its community.

“We’re very happy to be partnering with the Chamber to bring this tradition back to campus,” Sheley said. “We’ll be celebrating our nation’s history while at the same time providing the community a great place to have fun. In the past we’ve referred to ourselves as a hidden gem. With this event and others like it, I think you can get rid of ‘hidden.’ In still challenging budget times, we are committed to showing the community that this is their university.”

Other Fourth of July festivities include:Manteca

Manteca's Independence Day Parade, with the theme of "Faith, Freedom & Family," will start at 10 a.m. on July 4 at Jason and N. Main streets. The parade will head south on Main Street to Center and on to Poplar Street.

Old-fashioned family fun, including a watermelon eating contest, softball tournament rides and children activities will be offered from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. July 4 at Big League Dreams, 1077 Milo Candini Dr., in Manteca. The evening of fun will end with a fireworks show at dark. Admission is $2 for those ages 13 and up and free for all ages 12 and under.


The community of Ripon will host a 4th of July Firework Extravaganza and Carnival July 3-5.

The Midway of Carnival Fun will be held from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. July 3; noon to 11 p.m. July 4; and noon to 9 p.m. July 5 at Mistlin Sports Park, 1201 W. River Rd., in Ripon. Pre-sale ride tickets are available at the Ripon Police and Fire Departments, Ripon Chamber of Commerce and Ripon City Hall.

The Firework Extravaganza will begin at dusk on July 4, also at Mistlin Sports Park.

For more information, visit



Since 1874, the city of Modesto has celebrated the 4th of July with a parade through downtown. The 141st annual Fourth of July parade theme is "Let Freedom Ring" and it will kick off at 9:30 a.m. on July 4 at the corner of F and 10th streets. The parade will follow 10th street north to J Street, make a short jag down 11 Street and then head east on I Street before ending at 17st Street.

The parade is organized by the Modesto Kiwanis Club. Grand marshals for this year's parade are the Stanislaus County Police Activities League, Sierra Vista Child and Family Services and YES Company.

Anyone who was born on the 4th of July is invited to join the 22nd annual float by emailing Sarah Griffin at or call (209)247-5441.


Columbia State Historic Park will celebrate the 4th of July like the 49ers did way back when, including a glorious parade up Main Street at noon. Folks in Columbia began the 4th of July parade tradition in 1852. After the parade, listen to the Great Mother Lode Brass & Reed Band concert, dance in the street, and try your skill at the many contests popular in the early days of Columbia. The kids will enjoy trying to climb the greased pole, and participating in the bucket brigade and the cake walk. Other contests for kids of all ages include nail pounding, watermelon and pie eating, egg relay race and egg toss, and a five-way tug-of-war. The parade and concert are free, and entering the contests only costs a buck.

A tri tip barbecue lunch will be served following the parade (fundraiser for Columbia Chamber). Barbecue tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 10. Come early for the best parking and bring lawn chairs. The festivities will begin with a flag raising and firing of the muskets at 11 a.m.

For more information, call 209-536-1672.


Turlock's Independence Day Celebration will begin with a Street Fair and Market in Central Park at 8 a.m. in downtown Turlock, followed by a Patriotic Parade at 10 a.m. The parade will begin at Thor and E. Main streets and head west down Main to Broadway. The parade will then go north on Broadway, ending at Broadway Park. For more information about the street fair and parade, visit


A fireworks show will be held on the campus of California State University, Stanislaus on the evening of July 4. The event will start at 4 p.m. with music and children's activities, with fireworks at dark. Attendees are welcome to bring a picnic dinner, however, this is an alcohol-free event.


Atwater 4th of July activities will begin with a Run for Independence at 7:30 a.m. at Ralston Park. An Independence Day Parade will follow at 9 a.m. on Winton Way. The parade turns onto Broadway from Winton, and left onto 3rd Street, ending at Ralston Park. A festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ralston Park with live entertainment, food and children's activities.

Castle Air Base will open at 6 p.m. with food, music and bounce houses for the kids. A fireworks show will be held at the air base at dark. Entry to Castle Air Base is $5 a car; no walk-ins will be allowed. Lawn chairs and blankets suggested. Castle is located at 5050 Santa Fe Dr., in Atwater.

For more information about events, visit