14 Things to Do This Fourth of July Weekend

By Free Times
Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It’s the Fourth of July — and this year, it actually falls on a Friday, which means many of you will actually get to enjoy a three-day weekend.

So, how are you going to celebrate America’s independence? Reading up on the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution?
Yeah, we thought not.

Perhaps you’ll fire up the grill, head to the lake or take in some fireworks. Those are all worthwhile options that we heartily endorse. But they’re not your only options. So, to help you brainstorm the best possible ways you might enjoy the holiday, we’ve come up with this package of traditional — and not-so-traditional — ways to get your Fourth on.

Whatever you choose, here’s hoping you make this a Fourth of July to remember. — Dan Cook

Glimpse Some Rockets’ Red Glare

Of course, no Independence Day tradition trumps fireworks, those sparkling reminders of the fearsome battles this country endured to win its freedom — or maybe just the fact that explosions are, like, really cool; whatever works.

And as one might expect in a state to which many of its neighbors flock to buy their pyrotechnic goodies, the Midlands host some reliably crowd-pleasing displays: There’s the Torchlight Tattoo celebration out on the Hilton Field at Fort Jackson, where the fiery finale comes complete with a performance by the 282nd Army Victory Band and grandstand bleachers to grab that perfect view. Field opens at 4 p.m. Fireworks at 9 p.m. No pets, coolers, alcohol or personal fireworks are permitted. Call 751-6299 for more info.

The Columbia Blowfish will light up the sky at three consecutive games this week — on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at Capital City Stadium. Visit blowfishbaseball.com for details.

The city gets in on the action on Saturday with the Capital City Beach Party at Finlay Park starting at 4 p.m. Fireworks start after beach band The Episodes, at 10 p.m.

In addition to these events, on Friday the Village at Sandhill presents its annual Freedom Festival and Fireworks Show, an event that runs from 1 to 10 p.m. and includes live music throughout the day.

Enjoy the shows — or just mind your pets if they get riled by loud noises. — Jordan Lawrence

Get on the River

It’s hot, Columbia. The river, on the other hand, is cool — especially the Lower Saluda River, which spills out of the chilly bottom of Lake Murray. So if you dip yourself in the river, you’ll be cool, too.

The easiest way to get wet is probably to just head down to the Three Rivers Greenway and put your toes in the water, as hundreds of people do every weekend near the West Columbia Riverwalk Amphitheater. Watch out for the slippery rocks and the current, though, and wear a PFD if you don’t know how to swim.

For the slightly more adventurous, there’s tubing, and the best place to start with that is probably Palmetto Outdoor, which runs a tube rental shack in the parking lot of the West Columbia Riverwalk, complete with a bus to ferry you up the road to the zoo, where you can put your tube in the water.

You can rent a tube from Palmetto Outdoor at the West Columbia Riverwalk. Photo by Sean Rayford.

Prefer to navigate an actual watercraft? You can rent canoes and kayaks from several local outfitters: Adventure Carolina (796-4505, adventurecarolina.com); Get Your Gear On (799-0999, getyourgearon.com); Palmetto Outdoor (360-4697, palmettooutdoor.com); and River Runner Outdoor Center (771-0353, riverrunner.us). Those outfitters also offer a variety of guided tours, as do Saluda Shoals Park (731-5208; icrc.net) and Congaree National Park (776-4396; nps.gov/cong). — Eva Moore

Hear Patriotic Music — and Not From a Marching Band

Fireworks have long been a part of the Fourth of July, but so has music. From the marches of John Philip Sousa to the many pop singers who will take to the TV singing versions of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America,” sonic celebrations are nearly as prevalent.

As it does every year, the Lake Murray Symphony Orchestra will offer an alternative to more widespread popular fare with its Star Spangled Symphonic Salute, an evening of patriotic music on the evening of July 4. It’s an outdoor affair, and attendees are encouraged to bring folding chairs or blankets for more comfortable seating. The concert, free with admission to the hosting Saluda Shoals Park, starts at 8:30 p.m. and lasts until 9:30 p.m. Call 731-5208 for more information. — Jordan Lawrence

Head to a Burlesque Show

Let’s be real here — what’s more American than freak shows, punk rock and showing some skin?

Mark Plessinger — you know him as the founder of the First Thursdays on Main arts series — has launched a new project called Shamelessly Hot, which will bring touring burlesque, sideshow and vaudeville acts to Columbia.

Shamelessly Hot’s first endeavor presents New Orleans’ act Freaksheaux to Geaux (that’s “Freakshow to Go” for those haven’t had their coffee yet), which presents a Southern Gothic twist on the classic vaudeville act. Or, as they put it, expect “a delicious gumbo of music, circus, sideshow, burlesque and more.” Whatever you do, don’t bring the kids. (If your judgment is bad enough that you were considering it, the rules prohibit it anyway — so find that babysitter list.)

Freaksheaux to Geaux brings burlesque to North Main Street on Saturday. Photo by Shadow Angelina.

Also on the bill: carny-punk ensemble Ford Theatre Reunion from Kentucky. What’s a “carny-punk ensemble,” you ask? It’s circus music for freaks, basically — and we mean that in a complimentary way.

It all takes place Saturday at the Block on NOMA, which is at 2615 River Dr. (at the intersection of North Main and River Drive). Gates open at 7 p.m., and there will be food from Crepes & Croissants, ice cream from Paradise Ice and drinks from Wine Down on Main. Tickets are $12 in advance (available at Frame of Mind on Main Street) and $15 at the gate. — Dan Cook

Pick Some Blueberries

The past two years, soggy conditions kept blueberry farms and eager pickers from enjoying the usual summer-long berry-picking season. But so far this year, the blue orbs are ripening and ready to go.

If you’re looking to get your pick on here in the Midlands, Oak Grove Farms of Gaston regularly posts picking times on its Facebook page. (Search “Oak Grove Farms of Gaston.”) The farm’s you-pick blueberry price is $2 per pint or $14 per gallon. Meanwhile, Berry Hill Farms, located on the aptly named Bluefield Road out in Lexington, opened its season last week; a pound of you-pick blueberries is going for $1.50.

If you don’t feel like traveling close to the western edges of Lexington County, City Roots is in Columbia’s city limits. According to its Facebook page (facebook.com/cityrootsfarm), the you-pick price is $7 per pound. City Roots is also currently boasting you-pick blackberries for the same price.

When heading out to the farms, closed-toes shoes, bug spray and a hat are all recommended. A cute basket is totally optional. — April Blake

Get Out of Town

Sick of Columbia? You could use the long weekend to get a change of scene.

The short drive to Gilbert, S.C., is a lovely one, and it’ll get you to the 56th Lexington County Peach Festival, held July 4 (lexingtoncountypeachfestival.com/). A longer drive gets you to Cherokee, N.C., for the 4th of July Powwow (visitcherokeenc.com), held Friday through Sunday and featuring an array of traditional Indian powwow dance competitions. Friday is probably the biggest day of the powwow, with the Grand Entry march at 7 p.m. and fireworks at 10 p.m.

Cherokee, N.C. hosts a 4th of July Powwow

If you’re into less activity-centered fun, you could always bask on one of the state’s beaches or go for a peaceful hike in the mountains. Check out the state’s many state parks (southcarolinaparks.com) or the South Carolina Trails Program (sctrails.net) for some places to start.

Looking for some quirkier ideas? Read Free Times’ May 7 cover story, “Day Trips!” on weird day trips within a few hours of Columbia. — Eva Moore

Get Wet

Most of the traditional July 4 activities involve spending a lot of time outside — which can be a problem when faced with the oppressive heat and humidity that consume Columbia this time of year. But what if you could keep cool and have some fun in the sun?

Well, you can do just that by heading to one of the Columbia area’s two water parks. Saluda Splash, housed at the Saluda Shoals Park on Bush River Road, is open to the public for an additional $3 after park admission. Water cannons, misting circles and an interactive water playground promise a rousing time for those not looking to simply lounge in the water — a worthwhile use of time in its own right. The park’s open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Call 772-1228 for more information.

Saluda Splash | photo by Austin Price

The second option is the Palmetto Falls Water Park, located on Fort Jackson. It’s a little harder to access — you’ll have to enter via Gate 2 on Forest Drive and display your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance to gain admission — but the watery rewards are ample: The park offers two water slides, three pools and an 800-foot lazy river. Admission is $9.50 ($4.50 for military), and hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 1-7 p.m on Sunday. For more info, call 751-3475. — Jordan Lawrence

Rock Out

While some of this year’s local Independence Day celebrations incorporate live bands, the rest of the holiday weekend also offers some appealing musical options. On Thursday, Yosef headlines a night at New Brookland Tavern, offering compact and manicured pop tunes that are at once breezy and crystalline — tuneful distractions that become more immersive the more attention they are given. The 8 p.m. show also features Loners Society and Daddy Lion and costs $5.

Also on Thursday, the Jam Room Music Festival will host a free fundraiser, raking in money for this year’s event through beverage sales. Hitting Boyd Plaza at the Columbia Museum of Art at 6 p.m., the show features the far-reaching bedroom folk of The Restoration’s Adam Corbett, along with the Mississippi Kites and Pocket Buddha.

Meanwhile, the City of Columbia presents Blues & BBQ on the River on Friday at Coble Plaza (312 Laurel St. at Riverfront Park). The event runs from 6 to 10 p.m., costs $15 and will feature blues from Elliott & the Untouchables.

But the biggest show of the weekend goes down at The Coop on Saturday. Jadakiss, the “rapper’s rapper” praised by luminaries from Eminem to Jay-Z, will perform, likely leaning on his respected early catalog and possibly previewing whatever material hasn’t already leaked from his long-gestating new album, Top 5, Dead or Alive, his fourth outing as a solo artist. Tickets for the 9 p.m. shindig cost between $30 and $50. Proceeds from the benefit performance go to Ynotu2, a nonprofit that supports disadvantaged job seekers. 

More info on some of these shows can be found in this week’s Music & Nightlife section. — Jordan Lawrence

Eat a Tomato Sandwich

Tomatoes are just coming into season, which means there’s no time like the present to slather the bread of your choice with Duke’s mayonnaise and pile on the lightly salted slices of fresh tomato. (Bacon is delicious but optional. Lettuce is not at all necessary. The juices that run out when you eat it should be pink and milky from the combination of tomato juice and mayo.)

Not just any grocery store tomato will do; instead, hunt up some heirloom or farm-fresh tomatoes at Rosewood Market or one of the Midlands’ many farmers markets, including the Forest Acres Farmers Market (782-9475, farmersintheforest.org), Healthy Carolina at USC (sa.sc.edu/healthycarolina), the Irmo Farmers Market (irmofarmersmarket.com), the Town of Lexington Farmers Market (356-8238, lexsc.com), the Sandhill Farmers Market (699-3187, clemson.edu/public/rec/sandhill), Soda City Market (917-0794, sodacitysc.com), the Blythewood Farmers Market (facebook.com/blythewoodfarmersmarket) or the State Farmers Market (737-4664, scstatefarmersmarket.com). And now that you’re in the tomato spirit, remember that the Tasty Tomato Festival is coming up, too, on July 19. — Eva Moore

Head to the Lake

If you wanted to head to the Lake Murray Boat Parade this weekend — sorry, you already missed it. It was last Saturday. But even if you missed the red-white-and-blue-bedecked boats and the accompanying fireworks, you can still enjoy the lake.

One way to access the lake is through the Dreher Island State Recreation Area. Located 30 miles northwest of Columbia in Prosperity, the area encompasses three islands and 12 miles of shoreline on Lake Murray. You might just want to laze around at the lake and have a picnic, but if you’re up for an adventure, Dreher Island offers lakefront camping, cabin and villa rentals and water skiing.

Lake Murray | photo by Daniel Coston

For more info on Lake Murray’s parks, boat ramps and public access points, visit lexingtonsc.com/lakelife, lakemurray.com or lakemurrayfun.com.

And if the heat of July isn’t really your thing? Head to one of Lake Murray’s bars or restaurants, such as Liberty on the Lake or the Rusty Anchor, and enjoy the lake from indoors with a cold beer in your hand. — Dan Cook

Pop a Summer Beer

For some of us, summer is the season of Bud Light Lime. And there’s nothing wrong with that: It’s a strangely refreshing substance. But there’s so much more out there in the world of summer beers, especially those from local and regional craft breweries.

River Rat Brewing’s Twisted Lemon Wheat | photo by Tug Baker

When it comes to Columbia brews, River Rat Brewery is featuring a Twisted Lemon Wheat for the summer, which you can also order cut with carbonated organic lemonade for an extra-refreshing radler.

Meanwhile, Conquest Brewing has put in a tap for fancy Cannonborough sodas like the Grapefruit-Elderflower, which probably tastes pretty summery mixed with Conquest’s Jeffeweizen.

Widen your gaze just a bit beyond the Midlands, and it’ll come to rest on possibly one of the best beers in America: Westbrook Brewing’s Gose, a sour, salty, low-alcohol concoction that Westbrook brews during the summer months. Atlanta, Georgia’s Sweetwater Brewing is back this year with its Waterkeeper, a hypercarbonated hefeweizen that raises money for Waterkeeper organizations across the country, including our very own Congaree Riverkeeper. And if Bud Light Lime really is your thing, check out NoDa Brewing of Charlotte’s Nodajito, a witbier with clean, limey notes and fairly low alcohol. — Eva Moore

See a Summer Blockbuster

When it comes to the big screen, summer is the best season to grab some popcorn and watch stuff blow up. And like the fireworks that will crackle in spots all over the Midlands, the glut of blockbuster spectacle reaches critical mass as we approach Independence Day.

Entering its second weekend after debuting with a whopping $100 million at the box office, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Michael Bay’s fourth go at milking his favorite robotic cash cows, promises epic battles without the burden of intellectual substance. Other action offerings still in local theaters include the generation-crossing mutant throwdown X-Men: Days of Future Past,  this year’s rejuvenated Godzilla, and the surprisingly acclaimed Edge of Tomorrow, which sees Tom Cruise messing with time travel and shooting plenty of alien baddies.

But explosions seem mostly absent in this week’s marquee debuts: The kid-targeted Earth to Echo claims to channel both E.T. and Finding Nemo with its tale of youngsters who help an orphaned alien robot, while Tammy lets Melissa McCarthy loose on yet another unhinged female character — but this time she’s the star of the show. For help finding showtimes near you, visit free-times.com/movies/movie_times. — Jordan Lawrence

Go to a Museum

Yeah, it’s hot out. But you know where they typically have really nice air conditioning? Museums.

And it just so happens that the South Carolina State Museum has one exhibit that would be mighty appropriate to check out this holiday weekend: The American Revolutionary War in South Carolina examines the key role that the Palmetto State played during this country’s fight for independence. Over 200 battles and skirmishes were fought here, as settlers sought to shake off British control. The ongoing panel exhibit — which is open on Friday — highlights major engagements, such as the Battle of Sullivan’s Island and the Battle of Cowpens, and digs into the parts that women and blacks played here during the war. The exhibit is free with admission, and the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sunday, when its hours are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Find out more at scmuseum.org.

South Carolina State Museum presents The American Revolutionary War in South Carolina

There will, of course, be other museums and exhibitions open this Fourth of July weekend. To find out about some of them, you can flip to this week’s What’s Happening section or point your browser to free-times.com/events. Make sure to call ahead for holiday hours. — Jordan Lawrence

Make the Perfect Margarita

Lots of bars and restaurants take the Fourth of July weekend off. So there’s no time like now to work on your home drink-making skills.

Margaritas don’t have to be fancy, but they do have to be excellent. And the one simple truth of margarita-making is that you can never, ever use a bottled margarita mix if want a good result. You have to juice some limes. Sorry.

Fortunately, the Mexican lime shortage that sent U.S. lime prices skyrocketing this spring is at an end with the new crop of limes ripening on trees, meaning this is a good time to make a bunch of margaritas.

You have to juice some limes for a good margarita.

Beyond the fresh-lime rule, your choices are wide open. You can go with salt-rimmed glasses or no salt. You can use tequila that’s blanco (white) or reposado (lightly aged and mellowed in wood barrels), depending on the brightness of tequila flavor you prefer. (Save the añejo tequila for plain sipping.) Margaritas made with the bitter-orange notes of Cointreau taste wonderful, but basic (and cheaper) triple sec gives a fresh-orange flavor that’s good in its own way. And while premium tequilas are lovely, a pitcher of margaritas made with something like Sauza Gold is perfectly delicious. Tinker with the proportions as you wish, but start somewhere around 3 parts tequila to 2 parts lime juice and 1 part triple sec. Shake it up with ice or serve it on the rocks and see what you think of your handiwork. Repeat. — Eva Moore

Let us know what you think: Email editor@free-times.com.

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