Patriotic parades are taking place July 4 in Wat
Patriotic parades are taking place July 4 in Watsonville, Aptos and Scotts Valley.
(Photo by Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
City Life

Plenty to do on Fourth of July in Santa Cruz County — even without fireworks

Scotts Valley, Watsonville and Aptos are all holding their traditional observances of Independence Day with parades and festivities, despite many jurisdictions holding the line against illegal fireworks

This story was originally featured in this week’s Weekender newsletter. Be the first to hear about arts and entertainment news in Santa Cruz County — sign up for Wallace’s email newsletter here and and text alerts here.

Independence Day is upon us again, dropping in on a Tuesday this year, and that means warnings and reminders from local officials that fireworks are illegal in many jurisdictions.

The city of Santa Cruz, for instance, prohibits all fireworks at all times, including the Fourth. Fireworks are also officially illegal in all parts of unincorporated Santa Cruz County, including the San Lorenzo Valley, Aptos, Soquel and the Pajaro Valley.

In Capitola and Watsonville, fireworks are legal only on the Fourth, only on private property, and only the “safe-and-sane” variety. “Safe-and-sane” fireworks include anything that doesn’t explode or is not shot up in the air — like sparklers, smokeballs, pinwheels and things that spin on the ground. Anything else is verboten, and city police and sheriff’s office staff will be out looking to cite anyone who doesn’t comply.

Given the potentially grave fire danger as well as the annual anxieties about loud noises and their effects on pets and animals, it’s clear that fireworks are slowly edging toward oblivion, at least in Santa Cruz County. It’s a bit surprising they’re tolerated at all anymore. But many community groups benefit from funds raised by sanctioned fireworks stands in places like Watsonville. Sure, traditionalists insist that Independence Day is not the same without exploding plumage in the sky. But that sounds more and more like a losing argument.

So, what is happening on the Fourth of July?

Time to get out your red, white and blue. It's 4th of July time in Santa Cruz. the Worlds Shortest Parade in Aptos.
Time to get out your red, white and blue. It’s 4th of July time in Santa Cruz. the Worlds Shortest Parade in Aptos.
(Photo by Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

In Scotts Valley, the Fourth will be celebrated with a parade and flyover. The parade is set to begin at 1 p.m. along Scotts Valley Drive, between Carbonera Way and El Pueblo.

The Spirit of Watsonville parade, with antique cars, equestrian riders and other cool stuff, will start up at 12:30 p.m. at Freedom Boulevard and Main Street in Watsonville. The parade will proceed down Main to First Street, with booths and activities on Peck Street near the downtown plaza.

You can also have some family-oriented fun, including live music and a train ride, at Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton. Up the valley a bit more, Boulder Creek is also planning to hold its annualparade and block party.

And, we can never forget “The World’s Shortest Parade,” held annually on July 4 in Aptos, beginning at 10 a.m. and ending up at Aptos Village Park with games, food trucks, beverages and vendors, along with live music from James Durbin & the Lost Boyz.

But if you just have to see big fireworks for the Fourth, downtown San Jose is the place to be, or perhaps Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. Or maybe, if you’re adventurous and just love driving I-680, there’sLivermore as well. Hanging out at home with friends and a few fruity cocktails is always an option too. Maybe the best one. Happy Independence Day!