Getting drunk in your backyard and using Roman candles in ways not endorsed by the manufacturer or Night & Day Global Industries is one option on the Fourth, but there are others. The following free events all offer the American trifecta of fireworks, music and festival food. But here's what sets them apart and where to find schedules of events and times.
O'Fallon's Heritage and Freedom Fest rocks on Sunday and Monday, July 3 and 4 (900 T.R. Hughes Boulevard, O'Fallon, Missouri; www.ofallon.mo.us). Go for the foam dance pit for teens and the woodcarvers for adults -- the Little River Band and Dr. Hook are, obviously, for everybody.
Riverfest fills St. Charles' Frontier Park (South Main Street and First Capitol Drive; www.historicstcharles.com) Saturday through Monday (July 2 through 4). Go for the candy-laden Main Street parade on Monday; stay for the flyover by the 131st Fighter Wing of the Missouri Air National Guard.
Across the river in Alton's Riverfront Park (Broadway and Henry Street, Alton, Illinois, 314-463-3526 or www.visitalton.com), the Mississippi Fireworks Festival starts at 5 p.m. Friday, July 1, and continues Saturday and Sunday (noon to midnight both days!). Go just because you've never seen fireworks in Illinois.
Finally, check out the Webster Groves' Lions Club Community Days (Saturday through Monday) along Elm Avenue near Glendale Road. Go because you'll feel like a kid again while strolling the midway. Check out www.webstergroves.org for particulars. -- Kristie McClanahan
The Farm That beer built
For you Grant's Farm (10501 Gravois Road) is a place of nightmares. After all, during your last visit (in the '80s), you got your head stuck in a wrought-iron fence for the better part of an hour, and later on that day, while one pygmy goat distracted you with his precious face, a decidedly less-precious goat ate your shorts. Deceitful suckers. But don't you miss those goats even still? Aren't you hungry for a pretzel from the Brat Haus? It's time to forgive the Farm and visit the goats, the Clydesdales and the elephants -- Mickey and Bud, who have a four-times-daily show. Plus, you should check out Grant's Cabin; while this president's home wasn't too cool to you as a kid, it'll probably make an impression on the adult you. Grant's Farm is typically closed on Mondays, but Monday, July 4, is special: You can visit for free from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (or any other day of the week -- check www.grantsfarm.com or call 314-843-1700 for times); parking is $6 per vehicle. -- Alison Sieloff