Everybody knows that freedom isn’t free. Plenty have paid high prices to win you life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
What is free this year, however, is one of Vancouver’s main claims to fame: Independence Day at Fort Vancouver, the annual festival of music, food, fireworks and our own unique historical setting.
Thanks to political and budget realities — the messy downsides of a functioning democracy — the event has slimmed down this year. It doesn’t cost to get in, but it’s not the daylong extravaganza it once was. That’s because host the Fort Vancouver National Trust has reviewed expenses and feedback from previous years, and decided to refocus on the main event: the rockets’ red glare and (harmless) bombs bursting in air.
“The Trust recognized that the fireworks show is the element most valued by the community. We’re focusing on that — giving our audience what they most want,” said CEO and President Mike True.
The fireworks will be just as glorious as ever, according to the Trust: launched at 10 p.m. from Pearson Field, synchronized to music and including some startling special effects, and reaching 500 feet high and 500 feet wide in the sky over the fort grounds and viewing area.
Fourth of July festivities
• Fort Vancouver: 6 to 10:30 p.m., Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 1001 E. Fifth St., Vancouver. $5 suggested donation. Prime Viewing: $50, $25 for ages 6 to 17. 4th.fortvan.org
• Felida: Annual children’s parade and party, 10:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. Felida Community Park, off N.W. 36th Ave. at 122nd Street, Vancouver. Free. 360-573-4030
• Vancouver: Friends of the Carpenter/central Vancouver neighborhood picnic, 5 to 8 p.m., Immanuel Lutheran Church, 8310 MacArthur Blvd., Vancouver. 360-694-3661 or www.immanuelvancouver.org
• Port of Camas-Washougal: 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Port of Camas-Washougal, 24 S. A St., Washougal. 360-835-2196 or portcw.com
• Ridgefield: 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. around Ridgefield Overlook Park, Pioneer Street and Main Avenue. $5 for kids zone, $20 to $35 for fun runs. www.ridgefield4th.com/
• Yacolt: 10 a.m. to late, Yacolt Town Hall, 202 W. Cushman St., Yacolt. 360-686-3922 or www.townofyacolt.com/general/page/olde-tyme-family-fun-games-parade
But what used to be a long day of multiple entertainment zones, parades, tours, singing contests, family games, historical re-enactments and more is gone. Vehicle access will be restricted as of 8 a.m., and gates will be in place — but the event really is an evening one now, with music that begins at 6 p.m. The entertainment lineup is: The River Twain, Salsanova, the “45 Away” 234th Army Band, and the Nu Wavers.
That’s also when free shuttle service begins, every 15 minutes, between Vancouver Mall and the nearby Fort Vancouver Regional Library headquarters. Shuttle service stops at 8:30 p.m.; return service to the mall begins as soon as the fireworks are over, at about 10:20 p.m.
But, if you simply cannot wait — arts and food vendors will be onsite all day. Just be aware that, unless you have an ADA parking pass, you cannot park anywhere on the Fort Vancouver grounds. Some paid parking ($10, cash only) is available at the nearby Academy building to the northwest, or a lot on Fifth Street, to the east. Downtown meters are all free on the Independence Day federal holiday.
The historic fort itself, and Pearson Air Museum, will both be open for extended visiting hours until 8 p.m. that night. The usual fees apply to enter the fort: $5 for adults; free for children 15 and under. Pearson is free.
Don’t forget your own food, drink (no alcohol), lawn chairs and blankets.
Free, but …
OK, this being America, free isn’t exactly free. For one thing, everyone is encouraged to make a $5 donation toward future fireworks shows. (Since retail fireworks sales, which used to support the event, are now banned in the city of Vancouver, the city approved a grant from its lodging tax to support the event; other major sponsors include Bank of America, Waste Connections and Homewood Suites.)
But if you want to ensure your unobstructed view of the fireworks, preceded by a dinner buffet, you can spring for Prime Viewing tickets. Those are $50 for adults and $25 for under 18. Ages 5 and under are free.
So many Fourths
Downtown Vancouver isn’t the only place where word has spread about our independence from Great Britain. Even out in the hinterlands, folks have heard the news and are gearing up for big celebrations:
• Felida, children’s parade at 10:45 a.m., with decorated bikes and wagons encouraged; festivities continue with games, music, booths, snacks, in Felida Community Park until 2 p.m.
• Friends of the Carpenter/central Vancouver neighborhood picnic, hot dogs, hamburgers and a “community atmosphere” at Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Heights. Please bring a side dish.
• Port of Camas-Washougal, concert and fireworks, 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Port of Camas-Washougal, 24 S. A St., Washougal. Food vendors and beer garden hosted by the Lions Club.
FOURTH OF JULY, by the numbers
• 1785: Birth year of America’s oldest Fourth of July parade, in Bristol, Conn.
• $5.4 million: Annual value of imported American flags, most of which are made in China
• 150 million: Hot dogs consumed each Fourth of July weekend
• 16,000: Fourth of July fireworks displays across America
• 800: People (on average) will go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries on the Fourth of July
• Ridgefield Fourth of July Celebration, starts at 7 a.m. with pancake breakfast. Fun run at 8 a.m. with 5K and 10K routes. End of the race coincides with 11 a.m. hometown parade, followed by a salmon barbecue and kids day with activities, a pie-eating contest and entertainment. Dancing in Overlook Park with High Fidelity Entertainment. Fireworks display at 10 p.m.
• Yacolt Rendezvous Days, parade at 10 a.m., followed by family fun in Yacolt Town Park including cornhole, bocce, table-top games, duckie races, a “snowball fight” and food trucks on site. Yacolt will host its own fireworks display set to music starting at dusk.