Fourth of July: Celebrations scheduled across the East Valley

From left, Summer Mittendorf, Alexis Rubio, instructor DeeDee Goodson, Alyssa Rubio and Rylee Gardner work on an Independence Day-themed wreath at the Apache Junction Multi-Generational Center. (Photo by Arianna Grainey)

Independence Day is Saturday, July 4, and the local communities are ready for the party. The day is often filled with family, friends, food and of course fireworks.
APACHE JUNCTION
Apache Junction Parks and Recreation will be holding the city’s annual Fourth of July party at two locations. The day of activities will start at 7:15 a.m. at the Superstition Shadows Aquatic Center, 1091 W. Southern Ave.  There will be a co-ed four-on-four volleyball tournament that starts at 8 a.m. Sign-up is at 7:15 a.m. and is limited to the first eight teams. There is no entry fee. Spectator admission is $1 for children and $2 for adults.
Then there will “Wacky Swim Activities” that will include water games, races and an obstacle course.
The aquatic center will be open from 10 a.m until 2 p.m.; the cost is $1 for children and $2 for adults. Volleyball players swim for free.
The 2015 Hometown Fireworks Extravaganza will be presented by Republic Services at Apache Junction High School, 2525 S Ironwood Drive. Before the show, there will be lots of kid friendly activities such as inflatable and water games, bean bag tosses and prize ponds, according to the Apache Junction Parks and Recreation website:http://www.ajcity.net/parks.
“We definitely have that hometown feel. You come down to the local high school,” Chrystal Sawyer, recreation coordinator for the parks department, said. “You can see your neighbors. You can see the people you haven’t see in a long time.”
Free watermelon will be given out courtesy of the Apache Junction Little League starting when the gates open. At 6:30 p.m. judging starts on the Bicycle, Tricycle and Wagon Mini Float Contest. To participate, decorate a bike, trike or mini wagon for the holiday and take it to the high school track, in front of the grand stand. Winners will be announced at 7 p.m. just before the live music starts, according to the website. There will be live music from the band Reign-N-Country from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The fireworks will start after Reign-N-Country’s show.
The gates will open at 6 p.m. and the fireworks are scheduled to go off approximately at 9 p.m. The city expects about 5,000 people will attend.
Admission to the event is free. Food and game booths will be available for a fee, according to the city’s website. There will be parking at the high school, the aquatics center and Cactus Canyon Junior High School, 801 W. Southern Ave.
Attendees can bring coolers but not weapons, fireworks, alcohol, tobacco or glass containers. Bags and coolers will be checked at the gate.  For more information visit www.ajcity.net.

QUEEN CREEK
The town of Queen Creek does not have an official firework show, but residents can attend the Celebrate America Festival being held at Schnepf Farms, 24810 S. Rittenhouse Road in Queen Creek. This year, the festival is returning to its roots and being hosted by the Schnepf family.  The event is expensive to produce, and so the previous hosts did not want to put it on the festival, farm owner Mark Schnepf said.
“It is an expensive event to put on every year. There was some talk that it might not happen this year. (My wife) Carrie and I did not want that to happen,” Mr. Schnepf said.  “We wanted to make sure that Queen Creek always has a Fourth of July celebration.”
That desire led to the Schnepf family taking responsibility for the show again, Mr. Schnepf said.
“It’s one of the truly longtime traditions that we have had here in the community,” Mr. Schnepf said.
The tradition didn’t start with Mark Schnepf. It dates back to the 1950s, when Mr. Schnepf’s father, Ray, wanted to produce a fireworks display for the community.
The Schnepf patriarch felt there was a need for a local fireworks show because the closest fireworks display was in Mesa. Back then, the roads were not paved so it was a long drive.
At that time, it was illegal to buy or sell fireworks in Arizona. To get around this, Mr. Schnepf said his father flew one of the family’s planes to New Mexico, which allowed fireworks to be sold, Mr. Schnepf said. His father filled up his plane and brought back enough to create the show.
“We had the very first fireworks display in Queen Creek at Schnepf farms, back in 1950,” Mr. Schnepf said.
For several years, his dad made that trip to New Mexico to buy fireworks until the celebration got too large for the Schnepf family to handle. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Queen Creek took it over and held the display at its property, now the Queen Creek Town Hall, 22350 S. Ellsworth Road, for a number of years, Mr. Schnepf said. The Kiwanis Club of Queen Creek ran the event for a number of years using the land that the Schnepfs donated. Last year the event was run by a local Christian church group.
“For the first time in probably 60 years or so, the Schnepf family is producing the fireworks show,” Mr. Schnepf said.
This year’s holiday celebration will introduce two events. The first is a family-friendly movie that will be projected on a large screen after the fireworks show. The title of the movie was not available at press time. Second, all of the farm’s rides will open at 5 p.m. and reopen after the fireworks show. There also will be hayrides and train rides.
“We are just really excited,” Mr. Schnepf said. “We want to make sure the Fourth of July is a tradition that remains here in Queen Creek.”
The gates will open at 5 p.m. The fireworks will go off approximately at 9 p.m. Traditionally there are about 5,000 people in attendance, but with this year’s added attractions, Mr. Schnepf is expecting between 5,000 and 7,000 people.
There will be four parking lots with two entrances (off Rittenhouse and Combs roads) and two exits.
Admission is $15 per car. Ride wristbands will be available for $12. VIP tickets are available for $25 a person. They include a VIP entrance and exit, tables and chairs in an air-conditioned building, a light dinner, a ride wristband and preferred seating near the front of the fireworks. Food and drinks will be available for purchase, including pies made by Mrs. Schnepf. No outside food, alcohol or ice chests can be brought in. For more information visitwww.schnepffarms.com or call 480-987-3100.

Queen Creek Olive Mill
Queen Creek Olive Mill, 25062 S. Meridian Road, will present its Fourth of July celebration 4-9 p.m. The Olive Mill invites the public to celebrate America the Italian way with a pizza party. The Pit Bar and Grill will be open, serving up burgers, sausage sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers and assorted beverages. The Elixers blues band will perform from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For more information, call 480-888-9290 or visit www.queencreekolivemill.com.

MESA
The city of Mesa will again be hosting the Arizona Celebration of Freedom. The celebration will be held at the Mesa Convention Center, 263 N. Center St. This year, the festival will include a naturalization ceremony at 7 p.m. with 20 participants representing 15 countries: Argentina, Cuba, Ethiopia, Germany, Guyana, Haiti, India, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom, Venezuela and Vietnam, according to a press release.
“That will be a kind of neat experience for people that haven’t seen that take place,” Steve Wright, Mesa’s director of public information and communication, said.
Before and after the ceremony, the Sertoma Club of Mesa is sponsoring a 10-question civic exam, so attendants can see how they would do. A candidate for naturalization is asked up to 10 questions from the 100 possible that are used by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to a press release.
The event will also play host to the We Make History group and A Hero’s Welcome. We Make History is a reenactment group. According to Mr. Wright, they dress in period clothing and put on presentations including war reenactments. Last year the group was such a big draw that the city decided to add more bleachers to accommodate the expected increase in attendance.
A Hero’s Welcome is also known as Operation Welcome Home. Mr. Wright said it was an opportunity for a city to recognize members of the military for their service.
“We have a special twist this year that we think will be very special, recognizing some military individuals and their families,” Mr. Wright said.
In addition, there will be three stages for live music — country, rockabilly and classic rock — before and after the fireworks and a classic car show.
The event is free to the public. Parking is also free at all lots and along the streets. As an alternative to driving, Valley Metro bus service on Route 40 will be extended through 11 p.m. to support the Arizona Celebration of Freedom, according to the transportation company. For more information about the bus schedule, visithttp://www.valleymetro.org/.
Most of the entertainment starts at 6 p.m. The naturalization ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. There will be bounce houses for the kids; some include water, so plan accordingly. Fireworks are set to go off around 9:45 p.m.
Mr. Wright expects between 35,000 and 40,000 to attend. Coolers can be taken in but no alcoholic drinks. Alcohol can be purchased at the event. For more information http://www.mesaaz.gov/things-to-do.

Mesa Market Place
Mesa Market Place, 10550 E. Baseline Road, will be giving away Market Money, movie tickets and SunSplash passes from 8 a.m. until noon at the food court, in the middle of Row B. Between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., the Roadrunner Breakfast will be $1.75 with the coupon in this paper.  Also people can write notes and color pictures to place into Packages from Home care packages that will be sent to soldiers serving overseas. Anyone who writes a note or colors a picture will get a free ice cream.
For more information, visit www.mesamarket.com or call 480-380-5572.

Sheraton Mesa
The Sheraton Mesa at Wrigleyville West, 860 N. Riverview, is also having a Fourth of July party. Food specials will be offered at 3 p.m. The party starts at 6 p.m. with a deejay performing at the pool until 10 p.m. Drink specials will be offered. Fireworks shows can be seen from the party deck.

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