GOING FOURTH So, you can’t decide what to do on the Fourth of July, and you’ve decided to give up and do the same thing as last year. Don’t just sit around and work on your beer gut again, get outside and celebrate your freedom to work on your beer gut. I know how difficult such an important decision can be, and if you live in Memphis, you’ve got just about enough options to cause your head to go off like a roman candle. Festivals and events abound on the Fourth, even Cordova has its own Independence Parade. Listen, if the Cordovians can party, you can. And you have plenty of ways to do it. So, how can you have a good time on the Fourth without blowing off your own hand? Here are some suggestions. And if you’d still rather shoot at cats with bottle rockets, then only God can help you. First off, you can’t go wrong with the Second Annual Pops With the Plants at the Memphis Botanic Gardens. This year, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra will be joined by The Stax Music Academy Rhythm Section and the Stax Soulsingers as part of a summer long concert series featuring an impressive lineup of blues and jazz artists from the likes of Ray Charles to Charlie Musselwhite. You can relax among the twenty-two gardens and soak up some fresh air as you enjoy patriotic anthems under the stars. For $25.00 a ticket, you can pack a picnic and a blanket and sit on the lawn or if you really want to go all out, you can dress up and get yourself a table right by the stage complete with white linens and a perfect view for about $50.00. If your too lazy to pack a picnic, or you’ve had a bad experience with potato salad, you can opt to purchase takeout from several local restaurants and caterers who will set up booths with everything from hot dogs to sushi. Whatever you decide, be sure to take some candles. Not only are they romantic, but it’s pretty dark out there and you don’t want to mistake a junebug for an olive. Alcoholic beverages are available, but you’re welcome to bring your own if you prefer. The concert will conclude with a spectacular firework display choreographed to the grand musical finale. Gates open at 5:00 p.m. and the concert will begin around sunset. If you go, make sure to get there early. The best seats will go fast. Parking is free and all ticket prices include tax and service charge. If you like, you can order tickets by phone or contact the Memphis Botanic Gardens for more information. If Fourth of July just doesn’t seem right to you unless you’re downtown, you can do the traditional Memphis thing and head to Tom Lee Park for the annual Star-Spangled Celebration. There will be live music, food, and dancing on the Mississippi. There’s even a boat parade. And to top it all off, a pyrotechnic show that rivals any other. This year the fireworks will last thirty minutes, long enough to ooh and aah yourself hoarse. Gates open at 5:00 and the sparks begin at 9:30. While you’re downtown you could choose to take in a baseball game instead. The Memphis Redbirds play the Portland Beavers at 6:05 p.m. and don’t worry, you’ll get your fix of fireworks at AutoZone Park right after the game. If you live in the Midsouth, and you eat, you’re sure to have heard of the Ripley tomato. Every summer they arrive in our grocery stores. You know the ones, those plump little fruits that are so good you can eat them like an apple? What the heck does a tomato have to do with the Fourth of July you ask? Well, if you live in Lauderdale County, everything. Only about an hour and fifteen minutes from Memphis lies the tomato-loving town of Ripley, TN where this Fourth of July will kick off the Nineteenth Annual Lauderdale County Tomato Festival. And if you don’t think a tomato can be very exciting, you are in for a big surprise. The festival’s three days are chock full of shows, exhibits, and tastings, all celebrating the lowly tomato. If you get to go on Thursday, you can check out work from local artists in the Tomato Festival Art Exhibition and Competition. You can even enter your own works (and no, they are not just pictures of tomatoes, so don’t try.) Later, you can be a part of the Opening Ceremony featuring the Star Spangled Banner Musical Salute, and yes, more fireworks. The rest of the festival showcases the tomato with contests awarding the biggest, oddest shaped, and best colored tomato, arts and crafts fairs, a barbecue cookoff and even a talent show. Saturday begins with a 5k run at 7am and continues with tomatoey events all day. Don’t miss the Tomato War at 10:00 am where you’ll get a chance to pummel family members until your heart’s content. If you want to hear some live music, gospel singers take the main stage at 1:00 and later you can celebrate the glorious tomato with Elvis impersonator, Follis and Memphis band, The Bouffants, but please refrain from throwing any. If you want more information about the Tomato Festival, call the Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce at 731-635-9541. Whatever you decide to do this year, remember that it’s a day when we should celebrate our freedom to do what we want to. It’s not just about aiming fireworks at your fellow Americans or beer and barbeque. It’s about the sacrifices that were made in order for us to do so. You know about sacrifice right? It’s like when you have to spend the Fourth with your family.

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