Make this July 4 a blowout
Abilene has always been a stars and stripes kind of town. You see this quality in its unparalleled support of Dyess Air Force Base, its colorful history with the Abilene Trophy, and the Barksdale Trophy touring town this year. It’s the same community spirit that earned us the All-America City title in 1990, when local booster H.C. Zachry wowed the National Civic League judges with a rousing tale of citywide collaboration after economic despair. The red, white and blue emblem painted on Cypress Street and 6th Street downtown is a proud reminder of that era.
So, when the Abilene skies were dark and fairgrounds idle on Independence Day in 2017, that was a situation two local dudes could not abide. Kelly Jay and Gary Grubbs assembled a Dream Team of community do-gooders and launched a new celebration – the Abilene Freedom Festival and WesTex Connect Fireworks Spectacular.
The extravaganza will start Wednesday evening when the Stars & Stripes Parade marches through downtown, followed by a 7:30 pm showing of “The Avengers” at the Historic Paramount Theatre. The Center for Contemporary Arts will stay open until 8:00 pm, while downtown watering holes, dining options, and shops are sure to enjoy the happy crowds.
Thursday, July 4, the action moves to the Taylor County Expo Center grounds, which will burst with vendors, shiny cars and bikes, a VIP tent and tailgate parties. Live music will start at noon and play through 10:00 p.m. The lineup includes American Idol alum Savannah Votion and fan favorites Kirk House, Deryl Dodd, Jerrod Medula and Willie Mack. General admission tickets include the Car & Motorcycle Show, as well as the live music stage, children’s activity area, vendors and food trucks.
The second largest firework show in the State of Texas begins at 10:00 pm and it’s one we promise you can’t miss.
Many generous donors help make this festival happen, and Abilene’s New Car Dealers Association, a group of four local dealerships, are the presenting sponsor: Arrow Ford, Star Dodge, Lawrence Hall Abilene and Toyota of Abilene. Get tickets online.
For anyone entertaining guests or looking for a holiday staycation, one local hotel got in the patriotic spirit and is offering a banger deal that includes a shuttle to the festival and fireworks show.
Other fun around town:
Anyone with a military ID, including National Guard and Reserves, gets the VIP treatment at four downtown venues, thanks to federal Blue Star grant programs. Frontier Texas!, The Grace Museum, 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum (ADMM) give active and retired military free admission every day until Labor Day, while the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) will give ID holders a 10% discount in the book store.
The 12th ADMM and Frontier Texas! will open on Independence Day, while the NCCIL and Grace will close on the holiday but will remain open the rest of the week. Activities and admission at the NCCIL are free to everyone, and those galleries have an art adventures set for Friday and an artist studio popping up on Saturday.
Beating the heat with water play is a longtime summer favorite, and Adventure Cove will open regular hours July 4 and throughout the weekend. At the splash pads throughout the city, the fun will flow daily from dawn to dusk.
Those who want to start the holiday on the right foot can trot over to the southside YMCA early for the Firecracker 4-Miler on July 4. Registration starts at 6:15 am for the 7:00 am run.
A cherished longtime July 4 tradition, the talented musicians with the Abilene Community Band will play patriotic tunes in a 7:00 pm concert at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest. Bring a lawn chair. Admission is free.
Out in Buffalo Gap, the Taylor County History Center will be closed July 4, something new this year, but will reopen regular hours the following day. The Abilene Zoo will close early on Independence Day but open regular hours the rest of the week, while nearby PrimeTime Family Entertainment Center also will close for the holiday and open the rest of the week, offering a deal on an “ultimate pass” for unlimited bowling, mini golf, laser tag, XD Theater, bumper cars and go karts. Another hot spot to hop off energy is the Maxx Air Trampoline Park, located just down the street from the zoo and Expo Center.
As always, locals and visitors can find a comprehensive list of fun things to do during the holidays and anytime at abilenevisitors.com and ongoing citywide events at the Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau’s calendar at abilenevisitors.com/calendar.
Happy Fourth of July!