With the Fourth of July just around the corner, it’s time to start making plans for how you’ll celebrate America’s independence.
If personal fireworks aren’t your thing, seven free community fireworks events will take place throughout Kern County Friday and Saturday. Shafter, Buttonwillow and Taft will each celebrate early on July 3, while Bakersfield, Tehachapi, California City and Lake Isabella will celebrate on the Fourth.
Fourth at River Walk
The Fourth at River Walk has become a well-attended favorite in Bakersfield since the first event three years ago, but earlier this year it appeared the show wouldn’t go on, the extravaganza having failed to attract a sponsor.
“It looked like we might not be able to find one and when news of the cancellation broke, these companies graciously stepped up and sponsored it,” said Nick Wynne, marketing manager of AEG in Bakersfield, which books events at the city’s entertainment venues, including the Park at River Walk.
San Joaquin Community Hospital and Kaiser Permanente came to the rescue, offering to sponsor the fireworks. KS Industries, Sunshine Metal Clad and Bakersfield Police Officers Association later offered help as well. All costs for the event, about $20,000 for fireworks and another $20,000 for production, have been covered by the five sponsors, Wynne said.
Fortunately, the brief cancellation didn’t create extra work for organizers.
“We’d kind of gone with the idea of having the event, so the basic outline was already there,” Wynne said. “It’s easier to cancel than put things together at the last minute. We planned on the event all year, thinking we were going to have it.”
Like last year, the Fourth at River Walk will include live music by Foster Campbell & Friends and food for sale from Uncle's BBQ, Brazilian Hot Dog and Carney Kettle Korn and Shaved Ice. There will also be a bounce house for kids.
The activities, which start at 6 p.m., will be in the Bright House Networks Amphitheater but the fireworks, which will start just after 9 p.m., will be visible from anywhere in the park, Wynne said.
About 12,000 people came to last year’s event, up from around 10,000 the year before.
“It will probably be about the same” this year, Wynne said. “Last year there was not a lot of empty space left. I don’t know how much more we could have on the grounds.”
It is a large crowd, and to attempt to manage it, Wynne encourages people to carpool, walk or ride a bike to the park. Those driving can park in the River Walk lot or across the street at an empty lot on Stockdale Highway and Buena Vista Road.
Food is allowed, but to drink alcohol, guests 21 and over must purchase a $1 wristband.
The Fourth at River Walk started three years ago to fill the void left by other local Independence Day celebrations, Wynne said, and organizers would have been disappointed to see it go too if sponsors hadn’t come forward.
“Obviously it’s immensely popular, so it’s important to us as a company to do this for the community, to provide entertainment,” he said. “For the city, it’s a big deal for them to provide something for the Fourth of July, too.”
Tehachapi Fourth of July events
Over in Tehachapi, there’s a full day of Fourth of July events, starting with the Warrior Run at Philip Marx Central Park and ending with a free fireworks show at the Coy Burnett Football Stadium. Wedged between those activities is the Hot Dog Festival, also at Central Park, where guests can enjoy hot dogs, barbecue and wiener dog races.
The town has organized Fourth of July events for 15 years now, and thousands attend the festivities, said Michelle Vance, Tehachapi’s economic development coordinator. It’s the fifth year for the wiener dog races, a delightful highlight for many attendees, she said.
“It’s the best thing ever,” Vance said. “You laugh so hard. It’s probably one of the funnest things in town.”
The race sees 50 pure-bred dachshunds competing against each other, though Vance noted there’s little skill involved for the dogs and that practicing with a pooch beforehand won’t guarantee it will actually run.
“Some dogs run out and just sniff each other’s butts,” she said. “It’s very entertaining. There are lanes but they never stay on course.”
Participating racers get a goodie bag from Canine Creek and the winner’s owner will get $100, Vance said.
The festival will also include a children’s parade, food vendors, a beer garden, games, a petting zoo and live music from Casper Holloway and the Tehachapi Pops Orchestra, as well as a flag raising at noon by the Civil Air Patrol.
When the Hot Dog Festival concludes at 4 p.m., gates will open at the stadium. Blue Mountain Tribe will kick off the evening with a performance, followed by the Tehachapi Community Orchestra. At 9 p.m., the fireworks will begin.
As if that wasn’t a full day already, there will also be “Bad Bulls” at the Tehachapi Mountain Rodeo, though unlike the festival and fireworks, this is not free and not organized by the city, Vance said. Rodeo attendees won’t need to rush to the stadium to see the fireworks since they’ll be visible from the rodeo grounds.
Although Bakersfield has its own fireworks show, Vance said she sees many people who make the trip up to beat the heat. While the forecasted 89 degrees in Tehachapi is hardly a cool day, the 101 degrees in Bakersfield might make it an appealing alternative.
Fourth of July weekend activities throughout Kern County
Shafter’s 4th of July Fireworks Show
When: 6 p.m., fireworks begin at 8:45 p.m. Friday
Where: Shafter High School Football Field, 526 Mannel Ave.
Admission: Free, donations welcome
Buttonwillow Annual Fireworks Show
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Buttonwillow Elementary School, 42600 CA-58
Taft Fourth of July Fireworks & Carnival
When: 4 p.m., fireworks around 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Sixth Street between Main and Supply Row
Fourth at River Walk
When: 6 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Park at River Walk, 11298 Stockdale Highway
Tehachapi Fourth of July events
All day Saturday
Warrior Run: 6 to 10 a.m.; Philip Marx Central Park (East C and South Mojave streets); $45
Hot Dog Festival: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., weiner dog races at 9:30 a.m.; Philip Marx Central Park; free
Bad Bulls: 5 to 9 p.m.; Tehachapi Mountain Rodeo (416 Dennison Road); $15 general admission, $12 children 3-10, seniors 60+, active military
Music and fireworks: Gates open at 4 p.m., music starts at 5 p.m., fireworks start at 9 p.m., Coy Burnett Football Stadium, free
Lake Isabella Fireworks Extravaganza
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Engineer Point, Highway 155
Information: (760) 379-5236
California City July 4th Gala & Fireworks
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, fireworks at 9 p.m.
Where: California City Central Park, 10300 Heather Ave.
Information: (760) 373-3530