When the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday like it does this year, the holiday fun starts over an unofficial long weekend, even if you do still have to go to work earlier in the week. With events on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday before the actual holiday, there are a lot of ways to celebrate your country.

One early celebration will be on Sunday, when the Beale Park Band performs at, naturally, Beale Park.

The final performance in its four-part Sunday concert series (which kicked off on June 10) is always a fan favorite, said director Douglas Kelley. Earlier weeks might have cooler weather, but the patriotic theme of the last one makes it a concert worth braving the heat.

"It is flag-waving from beginning to end," Kelley said. "Every patriotic tune that we can fit into an hour concert is in that program. Everyone will be able to sing along."

Included in the 40-member band's patriotic repertoire will be a medley honoring each branch of the military.

While the band stays in its traditional black pants and white shirts, in the crowd will be a sea of red, white and blue. The audience members tend to go all out, Kelley said, with some wearing big Uncle Sam hats. The stage, too, will be dressed for the holiday.

The Beale Park Band goes way back, Kelley said, to more than 100 years ago. Over that time, it's operated under various organizations, like the Musician's Union and the city of Bakersfield. Since the 1990s, it's partnered with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, a natural fit considering many of the Beale Park Band musicians play with the symphony as well.

In more than a century, the band has stuck to its mission of providing free music in the park. It's a wholesome event you just can't beat, Kelley said.

"There are other cities that do what we do, but I really think what we have is unique," Kelley said. "I think everyone should experience it. I used to live down the street from Beale Park, and every Sunday, you knew where I was going to be."

Beale Park's Greek theater is perfect for the band's concerts, Kelley said.

"I think it's a gem," he said. "It's one of those treasures that you don't realize how cool it is until you get us all up on stage. And all for the Fourth of July — that's America."

The band used to perform seven or eight concerts in the series but has had to cut back to four due to lack of funding. Musicians are playing for the love of music but do get a small stipend, Kelley said, which is essentially for gas to and from rehearsals and performances. (If anyone would like to donate to the Beale Park Band, Kelley would gladly welcome them.)

Kelley has been with the band since 2005, he said, but many members have been performing with it for decades. A lot of them are professional musicians and music teachers. That means for a free concert, guests are getting high-quality music.

"We have one rehearsal for each concert," Kelley said, noting that rehearsals are usually an hour and a half and concerts one hour. "With a nonprofessional group, that hour of music would usually take 15 hours or more (in rehearsal) but these guys and gals come in and sight-read and nail it."

While the final concert sticks to patriotic music, the others include show tunes, musical soundtracks, concert literature and more.

"If we don't get to your genre in the first tune, maybe the second or third will be yours," Kelley said. 

After this Sunday's concert, music lovers will have to wait until next June for the Beale Park Band's return. But the band is ready to end this season with a bang.

"It's great family entertainment," Kelley said. "It's a beautiful park, it's great music, it's free and it really gets you in the spirit of the Fourth of July."

The Beale Park Band performs its final concert of the series on Sunday at 8 p.m., with pre-concert entertainment starting around 7 p.m. Beale Park is in downtown Bakersfield on Palm Street and Oleander Avenue.

Other ways to celebrate

So what else is going on in Bakersfield and beyond in the coming days? Read ahead to plan your celebrations. All events are July 4 unless otherwise noted.

Stars & Stripes Independence Day Celebration and Fireworks Extravaganza

What: Music, inflatable water park, food, vendors, games, contests and more, followed by fireworks

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for earlier activities, with fireworks around 9:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Starts at Tank Park (4776 Lake Isabella Blvd.), fireworks over Engineers Point, Lake Isabella

Admission: Some activities will have charges, others are free

Information: kernrivervalley.com or 760-379-5236

Shafter's annual 3rd of July Fireworks Show

What: Fireworks, music, kid zone, food vendors (hamburgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, snow cones) and more

When: 6 p.m. July 3

Where: Shafter High School Football Stadium, 526 Mannel Ave.

Admission: Free; donations are welcome

Information: 746-2600

Buttonwillow's 11th annual firework show

What: Food booths, music and magic show, fireworks show

When: Gates open 6:30 p.m., fireworks at 8:50 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Buttonwillow School Football Field, 42600 Highway 58, Buttonwillow

Admission: Free

Information: 764-5205

30th annual Westchester 4th of July Parade

What: A parade through Westchester, with decorated homes, games and more

When: 8:30 a.m. sharp

Where: Parade starts at 22nd and Elm streets and goes east, turning south on B Street, west on 20th Street, ending at 20th and Elm streets

Information: 301-9080 or 549-9108

Fourth of July at the Petroleum Club

What: Celebrate Independence Day from 12 stories above, offering a great view of the town's fireworks without having to brave the heat of a Bakersfield summer. Backyard barbecue menu includes: grilled tri-tip, chicken leg quarters, hot dogs, chili con carne, baked beans, corn on the cob, mixed green salad, watermelon and more.

When: 5 to 10 p.m.

Where: Petroleum Club, 5060 California Ave.

Admission: $24 for members and guests, $30 for nonmembers, $12 for children 6-12, free for children 5 and younger

Information: 324-6561 or thepetroleumclub.com

The Fourth at River Walk

What: Music by Mento Buru, children's activities and fireworks, food from El Churro Loco, Pita Paradise, Barrington’s Jamaican Kitchen, Fuego’s Tacos and Carney Kettle Corn; very limited parking

When: 7 to 9:45 p.m., with fireworks at 9:15 p.m.

Where: The Park at River Walk, 11200 Stockdale Highway

Admission: Free

Information: 852-7300

Bakersfield Train Robbers

What: Home game against California City Whiptails, with fireworks

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Sam Lynn Park, 4009 Chester Ave.

Admission: $10

4th of July Feed

What: Celebrate the holiday with the Bakersfield Elks with a hamburger and hot dog pot luck. Bring your favorite side dish and/or dessert, meet new friends and learn how to become a member.

When: 1-3 p.m.

Where: Bakersfield Elks Lodge #266, 1616 30th St.

Admission: $5

Information: 323-7535

All-American Fourth of July Festival

What: A day of fun includes the All-American 5K run, Ed Grimes Memorial Pancake Breakfast, a parade, live music and more, with fireworks at the end of the night

When: All day, full schedule on City of Tehachapi's Facebook page

Where: Tehachapi 

Admission: Many events are free, but the 5K is $40 until July 3 and $45 the day of, and breakfast is $5

Information: liveuptehachapi.com or 822-2200

18th annual Benz Bad Bulls

What: Rodeo with a view of Tehachapi fireworks

When: Gates at 4 p.m., bull ride starts at 6 p.m.

Where: Tehachapi Event Center and Rodeo Grounds, Tehachapi, south of Highway 58

Admission: $17, $15 for kids 5-10, seniors 65 and older and military with ID

Information: 557-7336

Taft Fireworks Show

When: 5 p.m.

Where: Rails to Trails, Sixth and Main streets, Taft

Admission: $5-$10.

Information: 765-2165, taftchamber.com

Annual Wasco Fireworks Show

What: Show and food sold including snow cones, elotes and street tacos

When: 6 p.m.

Where: Baker Park, 1280 Poplar Ave., Wasco

Admission: Free

Kelly Ardis can be reached at 661-395-7660. Follow her on Twitter at @TBCKellyArdis.

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