Barbecued ribs and cold beer, carnivals and fireworks, rock concerts and pie-eating contests.
The Fourth of July is a big deal in the suburbs, with a wide range of events stretching out for days and going on in just about every town.
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Since the holiday falls midweek this year, there will be back-to-back weekends packed with festivals -- starting as early as Thursday -- to help celebrate our nation's 236th birthday. That's in addition to all of the parades, parties and fireworks on the holiday itself.
There are the big fests, of course -- the Naperville Exchange Club's Ribfest, Arlington Heights' Frontier Days, the Great Lakes Naval Station's 4th of July Celebration, and the Lisle Eyes to the Skies, to name a few.
But there are plenty of smaller-scale celebrations, too, like Grayslake's Family Picnic and Fireworks, Glen Ellyn's Fourth of July celebration or Cary's Summer Celebration.
Budget constraints forced some towns to scale down or combine their holiday plans. Northwest Fourth-Fest, for example, is a new, joint-venture July 4 event hosted by Hoffman Estates, Hanover Park, Elgin and Hanover Township. It runs July 4-8 at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.
Regardless of where you live, or whether you're seeking a reading of the Declaration of Independence or just some inflatables for your kids to jump on, there is July 4 fun nearby.
Some of the more unusual offerings at the suburban fests this year include:
• An attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the "most hand-held games played at one time" at noon Sunday, July 1, at Hometown Fest in Palatine.
• A live amateur boxing match at the Great Lakes Naval Station 4th of July Celebration at 3:30 p.m. July 3.
• An 1890s July 4 celebration, including the reading of the Declaration of Independence by costumed interpreters (and hand-churned homemade ice cream afterward), June 30 and July 1 at Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Kline Creek Farm.
• A picnic, movie, fireworks and batting practice in the outfield at Schaumburg Boomers stadium at 6 p.m. July 3.
• Rock Valley Sky Divers dropping from the sky at 8 p.m. July 4 in Bartlett, before the fireworks show.
• A New York City firetruck that responded to the Sept. 11 disaster in Arlington Heights' Fourth of July parade at 10 a.m..
• The Big Air Dog Jumping Competition, a qualifying tournament for a national championship, with tryouts starting July 5 and competitions running through July 8 at the pooch-friendly Dog Days of Summer festival in Libertyville.
• 5K races at various times in Antioch (Run for Freedom), Arlington Heights (Frontier Days Stampede Run), Mount Prospect (Jaycees Sparkler), Lincolnshire (Red, White & Boom), as well as a 9 p.m. run July 3 at the Great Lakes Naval Station (Firecracker Rock and Run), and a 4-miler in St. Charles, the Great Western Freedom 4 Lazarus House.
And, of course, there's lots of live music.
Some of the bigger name bands coming to the area for the festivities include Survivor July 7 at the Northwest Fourth-Fest at the Sears Centre; the Steve Miller Band June 29, Joe Walsh June 30 and ZZ Top July 1 at Naperville Exchange Club's Ribfest; and Burton Cummings of The Guess Who July 4 and Foghat July 5 at Arlington Heights' Frontier Days.
For a full listing of July 4 events in the suburbs, see www.dailyherald.com/article/20120513/entlife/705139988/.