Scotts Valley has the big fireworks display. It starts at 9:15 at Skypark.
The unofficial, un-sanctioned, really-not-legal-but-biggest-fireworks-party-anywhere has happened for years on every beach in Santa Cruz for a six-mile stretch.
That it’s settled down significantly from years past, when just stepping onto the sand between Main Beach and Seacliff was a declaration that you were a willing participant in a bottle rocket fight.
Saying the old Fourth of July celebrations at Seabright Beach resembled World War III would be an understatement. It was more like several epic battles happening at the same time on a small strip of sandy coastline. From a distant vantage point on the Santa Cruz Wharf, the free entertainment showdown resembled a huge, highly choreographed performance—a professional façade that disappeared the closer to the Seabright battlefield you actually got.
But in recent summers Santa Cruz Police began checking people’s bags as they entered Seabright Beach to make sure they weren’t carrying any alcohol, explosives and other ingredients for a good time.
To their credit cops are seeing to it that people leave the beach with their limbs intact and their fingers still on their hands. The beach’s seagulls, fish and other wildlife probably didn’t mind the enforcement change either. (Save Our Shores is hosting beach cleanups the next day, 8-10am; show up at any beach in town with a bag and do your part! www.saveourshores.org.)
Many locals have long avoided these scenarios at all costs anyway, though it’s hard to argue with the sheer prettiness of a Silver Fountain on a beach at nighttime.
And there are plenty of other ways to celebrate Independence from mad King George. Read on!
Aptos: World's Shortest Parade
That’s “short” as in “just a few blocks,” not “one fire engine and that’s it?” The Aptos Chamber of Commerce hosts the beloved quarter-mile parade through downtown Aptos, a tradition for 50 years. Pancake breakfast 7:30-10am, parade at 10am, festival, 11am-4pm. Info: 831.688.1467 or aptoschamber.com.
Boulder Creek: Fourth of July Parade
Set-up starts at 8am and the parade, she gets going at 10am on Highway 9 between Scarborough Lumber and Railroad Avenue. Free.
Felton: ‘50s Family Fest at Roaring Camp
A 1950s-style combo of sock hop, dance and hula hoop contests, sack races, balloon tosses, BBQ, live music, ambling adults, haggard parents and children jacked up on candy. Awesome! Roaring Camp Railroads, Graham Hill Road, Felton. 831.335.4484.
Santa Cruz: 27th Annual Firecracker 10k
The 10K race starts and finishes in Harvey West park and tours Pogonip and the upper Westside; the shorter ones (1k and 5k) wheel around other areas. Register at 7am; races start soon after. And then post-race: pancakes!! It’s all free. More info is at 831.439.7049 or santacruzfirecracker10k.org.
Santa Cruz: BBQ at the VFW
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7263 hosts an Independence Day bash with tri-tip, chicken, beans, salad and garlic bread. 2:30-5pm, 2259 7th Ave., Santa Cruz. $10.
Scotts Valley: Independence Day Parade, Festival and Fireworks
The Scotts Valley Chamber of Commerce sponsors this combo of parade (3pm on Scotts Valley Drive) and hoopla (Skypark, 3pm) with live music, climbing walls and food. And then fireworks, 9:15pm. Tix $6/$8. Scotts Valley Community Center & Skypark. Info: 831.438.3251.
Watsonville: Spirit of Watsonville Parade
The parade starts on Main St at 2pm at the Plaza. Downtown Watsonville. Info: 831.768.3240 or www.spiritofwatsonville.org.
Wilder Ranch: Old-Fashioned Independence Day
The parade starts at noon, and then come the flag raising, live old-time music, crafts, ice cream-making, games, hay rides and speechifying. Buy food and drink here or bring a picnic. Free admission. 11am-4pm. Wilder Ranch State Park, Hwy 1, two miles north of SC. Info: 831.426.0505 or santacruzstateparks.org.