In anticipation of the Fourth of July on Monday, parts of the Big Country will begin celebrating as early as Saturday, with festivals, parades, music and fireworks shows planned throughout the weekend.
In Abilene, the 15th annual WesTex Connect Fireworks Spectacular will open at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Abilene Zoo Festival Gardens, with a barbecue dinner served at 6 p.m., a flyover at 8 p.m. and a concert by Ariel Hutchins at 8 p.m.
A children's fireworks show will begin at 9:30 p.m., followed by the main fireworks show at 10 p.m.
There is no Abilene Freedom Festival this year. The event had in the past few years kicked off with a parade through downtown Abilene, followed by music and festivities at the Taylor County Expo Center.
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► Concerned Veterans of America will present the Red, White & Blue Bash from 4-11 p.m. Saturday in the SoDA District Courtyard, 817 S. Second St. Live music, free food, cornhole and a watermelon seed-spitting contest will be available.
► The annual Hillcrest Neighborhood Parade will begin at 10 a.m. Monday, starting at 2490 Campus Court. Hillcrest Church of Christ will have an ice cream social following the parade.
► Abilene Community Band will present a patriotic concert at 7 p.m. Monday on the east lawn of Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, 602 Meander St. Visitors are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets and snacks. Admission is free.
And in the Big Country ...
► ROSCOE — An Independence Day celebration will kick off with a 10 a.m. Saturday parade in downtown Roscoe. A mud bog will begin at noon at George Parks Baseball Field, with live music starting at 4 p.m. downtown and fireworks at 10:15 p.m.
► BROWNWOOD — A Fourth of July bash will begin at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Wild Duck Marina at Lake Brownwood, with a fireworks show at 9:40 p.m. and a concert by Johnny Cooper at 10:15 p.m. Tickets start at $25 and are available via eventbrite.com.
► BRECKENRIDGE — The Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce will present the annual Boomfest fireworks show at about 9 p.m. Saturday near Corley's Landing at Hubbard Creek Lake. Food vendors will be open 5-10 p.m.
► ANSON — A festival celebrating Independence Day and Anson's 140th birthday will be 2 p.m. to midnight at Anson North Lake. Food vendors, bounce houses and a fireworks show will be available, with live music by Caleb Young, Della Rose, McKenna Kasowski and the Hired Guns.
► BUFFALO GAP — The Buffalo Gap Chamber of Commerce will conduct a Fourth of July parade at 9 a.m. Monday. The route starts at Buffalo Gap Church of Christ, and continuing to the Old Settlers Reunion Grounds. Awards will be given for best floats and costumes. For information, call 325-572-3097.
► SWEETWATER — A Fourth of July parade through downtown will begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday, with lineup starting at 9 a.m. on Ash Street. The annual "Sparks in the Park" fireworks show will begin about 9:30 p.m. at Newman Park.
► TUSCOLA — A Fourth of July festival benefiting the Jim Ned Volunteer Fire Department will open with a car show from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday at Tuscola City Park. A cornhole tournament will begin at 5 p.m., with live music by Cassidy Sooter from 3-6 p.m. and Ariel Hutchins from 6:30-9:30 p.m. A fireworks show follows.
► BRECKENRIDGE — The Sixth annual Salute in the Salt Flats fireworks show will be presented at about 9:15 p.m. Monday near Canyon Road Barn and Grill at 5790 FM 3418, south of Breckenridge. KeyCity Entertainment will present patriotic music 8-10 p.m. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the Wayland, Caddo, Hubbard and Woodson volunteer fire departments.
Are fireworks legal in Abilene and the Big Country?
Fireworks generally may not be sold or used within Abilene city limits, although scheduled fireworks displays that meet minimum safety criteria may be permitted by the fire marshal following an application process.
In unincorporated areas of Taylor County, approved fireworks may be used on private property with landowner permission. However, aerial fireworks classified as "skyrockets with sticks," "rockets" and "missiles" are restricted, following a June 7 order passed by the Taylor County Commissioners in response to local drought conditions.
Other requirements for the use of fireworks in Taylor County include:
► The person using the fireworks is not intoxicated.
► Reasonable precautions are taken to avoid flammable structures and vegetation.
► Children have adult supervision.
► Water is available for extinguishing fires.
Fireworks regulations vary across the Big Country, with the use and sale of fireworks entirely prohibited in some areas, such as Eastland County. Check local county and city regulations for information.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Ways to celebrate Fourth of July in Abilene, Big Country