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The Fourth of July holiday offers a variety of activities and events. If you're of a pioneering spirit and not attached to the idea of oohing and aahing over a light show in the sky, Julian's local-heritage parade may appeal to you. "We don't do fireworks up here," says parade-committee member Bobbi Zane. "It's too dangerous; we can't risk fire. But we will have more fire trucks in the parade than you thought there were fire trucks." Zane says that people who know Julian know that parking can be a problem. It could take a quarter-mile walk to reach the center of town for the parade, the procession of which spans four blocks.

Zane says most people are surprised to learn that Julian's first settlers were African American. "Julian was settled in the early 1870s by black people, and the gold was found by a black man, and a black man founded and ran what is now the Julian Hotel for many, many years," explains Zane. Descendents of Julian's settlers will ride in the parade. "Elizabeth Coleman Weaver is the granddaughter of [gold prospector] Fred Coleman and will be riding in a car or an old Mack stage, which was a stagecoach from around 1915 that used to ferry people from here to San Diego."

The parade begins at noon, but pre-parade activities, including a vintage-airplane flyover, start at 10 a.m. "The best seats are probably in front of the hotel or the bank, and the south side is better for shade." There will be a few grandstands, but Zane says most of the approximately 5000 spectators will need to sit on the sidewalk or bring chairs. "Last year, people were putting their chairs out the night before, like the Rose Bowl. In reality, if you get here by eight, even up to ten, you'll find a spot. It doesn't start to really pack in until eleven." Julian cultivates its small-town feel. "My neighbor gets a tractor and loads it full of ice cream before the parade and passes the ice cream to the kids in little cups," says Zane. "He used to work for Knudsen Company and gets the ice cream donated." After the parade, the American Legion will host a deep-pit barbeque.

If you're looking for high-end pomp from dawn to dusk, make your way to Coronado. It is estimated that over 100,000 people visited last year's festivities. It's illegal to stake out a location here before 5:30 a.m.; the parade begins at 10 a.m. As for parking..."Parking? What parking?" asks Andy Szymanski, who has been working some facet of the parade since 1960. Latecomers may have to walk half a mile to reach a parade viewpoint. Only the severely handicapped and financial contributors can lay claim to one of 700 seats provided by the Coronado parade committee.

The military helps to build suspense before the parade. Four H-60s (Black Hawk helicopters) perform two flyovers; one at 10:40 a.m., the other at 11:30. Two years ago a man sued the city, the Navy, and the Coronado parade committee with the claim that a low-flying helicopter "spooked" his horse. "The rider was dumped off the horse and hit the ground, injuring his shoulder area," says Szymanski. "The second part [of the suit] was he said the people watching the parade encroached on his area of the parade, which meant kids were sitting on the curb." The city and the parade committee settled out of court.

The Coronado parade committee enforces its rules of conduct. "You're not allowed to throw anything -- we're a very close parade, only 40 feet across. We've kicked people out because of it; we call the police, who escort them off the site, and they don't get invited back," Szymanski explains. "One year Congressman [Duncan] Hunter wanted in the parade because he was running for office, and we told him, 'No, you do not represent us, we're not here to push your political feelings.'" The only way a campaigning politician can appear in the parade is if he or she is hosted by a group approved by the parade committee, such as the Republican Women's Club.

Don't like parades? Head out for Celebrate Chula Vista. "The Miss South County pageant includes Chula Vista, San Ysidro, National City, and Imperial Beach," says Tina Medina, general manager for Chula Vista's Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We have a different twist on the pageant." In lieu of traditional swimsuit and talent competitions, contestants compete in three categories: evening wear, business suit, and interview.

Last year, Chula Vista councilmember John McCann participated in the festival's pie-eating contest. "Hopefully we'll get the mayor this year. She's a great sport," says Medina. The festival begins at noon, and free shuttles to and from designated lots will run until 10 p.m., an hour after the event ends. Live music will include Spanish flamenco, reggae, mariachi, and an Elvis impersonator. "It's a celebration of all cultures on Independence Day." -- Barbarella

Independence Day Events Wednesday, July 4 Julian: Parade starts at noon; events from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Info: 760-765-1224 or www.julianmerchants.org Coronado: Parade begins at 10 a.m.; events from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Info: 619-328-2461 or www.ecoronado.com/4th/index.shtml Chula Vista: Festival from noon to 9 p.m. Info: 619-233-5008 or www.chulavistachamber.org/celebrate

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