CASA GRANDE — From the watermelon to the fireworks, communities throughout Pinal County are finalizing preparations for Fourth of July festivities.

In Casa Grande, the annual Independence Day festival is the second-largest city event of the year, second only to the Electric Light Parade. It attracts hundreds of families to Paul Mason Sportsplex for watermelon-eating contests, games, food and entertainment as well as the much-anticipated fireworks display.

“It’s an event that has become an annual tradition for families. Families look forward to spending time together and enjoying the activities and fireworks,” said Mindy Pieper, a recreation coordinator for the city of Casa Grande.

This year, a DJ will entertain attendees at the free festival, which will have six inflatable play structures including an 18-foot waterslide. Games and relay races are also on tap.

“Our annual relay races are always a hit,” Pieper said.

Every year, about 50 people take part in the city’s watermelon-eating contest, vying for bragging rights as the fastest watermelon eater in town. Cases of watermelon have been ordered for this year’s event. What’s not eaten in the contest will be handed out to attendees, Pieper said.

“From public works, police, fire and parks, everyone plays a part to ensure a successful and safe event for the community,” Pieper said.

The fireworks show begins at about 9 p.m. This year’s display, sponsored by Salt River Project and produced by Fireworks Productions of Arizona, will feature 1,400 shells and aerial effects.

Pieper said the best viewing spot for fireworks is at the Paul Mason Sportsplex but the show can be seen from many spots in the city.

“We encourage the public to come to the event as the only other areas around the complex are private property,” she said.

Pulling over on Pinal Avenue or Rodeo Road is prohibited for safety reasons, according to Pieper.

Staffers at Palm Island Family Aquatic Center will host contests and events for pool patrons from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Fourth of July. A special admission price of 50 cents for children and $1 for adults will be charged to those who visit the pool.

In Maricopa, the Fourth of July celebration includes a lineup of performers beginning at 6:20 p.m.

The musical group Combust performs first, followed by Laura Walsh and musical headliner Outside the Line at 7:30 p.m.

Maricopa’s event includes food vendors selling traditional Fourth of July fare such as hot dogs and hamburgers. Other vendors will also be on hand. A beer garden will be set up for adults.

For kids, the event offers carnival rides for kids and assorted bouncers and play structures. Wristbands for all-evening access to the kids zone are $5 for children.

The Copper Sky Aquatic Center will be open on the Fourth of July. Pool admission is $10 per person for members older than 3. The cost is $15 for non-members.

To purchase wristbands online, visit http://bit.ly/2sW5BuX.

Here’s a roundup of Fourth of July activities and fireworks shows throughout Pinal County.

Apache Junction

Time of fireworks: Tuesday, July 4, around 8:30 p.m.

Best place to watch: Apache Junction High School football field, 2525 S. Ironwood Drive.

Other activities: The Apache Junction Fourth of July volleyball tournament will be held at the Superstition Shadows Aquatic Center, 1091 W. Southern Ave. Registration begins at 7:15 a.m. Tournament begins at 8 a.m. The center is open for swimming from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Gates open for evening festivities at 6 p.m. at the football field. Festivities include free watermelon, game booths and various activities including inflatable play structures, water games, bean bag tosses and a bicycle, wagon and tricycle float contest will be offered. Cactus Wine will provide live music.

Arizona City

Time of Fireworks: Monday, July 3, dusk

Best place to watch: Arizona City Golf Course

Other activities: The Arizona City Fire District has invested nearly $9,000 in its fireworks show this year. Last year nearly 5,000 people attended the show. Throughout the year, the Arizona City Fire District raises all the money for the show through spaghetti dinners and other fundraisers. The festivities kick off at 5 p.m. at the golf course. Food vendors will be on hand and T-shirts will be on sale to begin raising money for the 2018 show.

Casa Grande

Time of fireworks: Tuesday, July 4, about 9 p.m.

Best place to watch: Paul Mason Sportsplex, 2525 N. Pinal Ave.

Other activities: Daytime activities will be held at Palm Island Family Aquatic Center, 1115 N. Brown Ave. The pool will have a special admission rate of 50 cents for children and $1 for adults.

Evening activities at Paul Mason Sportsplex begin at 6:30 p.m.

Coolidge

Time of fireworks: Tuesday, July 4, 8:30 p.m.

Best place to watch: Kenilworth Sports Complex, 671 E. Coolidge Ave.

Other activities: Daytime activities at the city pool are from noon to 5 p.m. and include diving for soda and money, belly-flop contests and other games. Evening events at the sports complex start at 6 p.m. and include arts and crafts, inflatable play structures, free watermelon pictures, popcorn and games.

Eloy

Time of fireworks: Tuesday, July 4, at dusk

Best place to watch: Jones Park, East First Street. Fireworks will be held at Santa Cruz Valley Union High School on the sports field.

Other activities: Free swimming will be offered from noon to 6 p.m. at Eloy Aquatics Park. Evening activities at Jones Park include water slides, games, food, music raffles and other festivities.

Florence

Time of fireworks: Tuesday, July 4, 8:30 p.m.

Best place to watch: Heritage Park, 600 N. Main St.

Other activities: Florence Freedom Fest includes live performances, a mud volleyball tournament, cornhole tournament, inflatable play structures, bingo and food vendors. Event is from 3 to 9 p.m. at Heritage Park.

Maricopa

Time of fireworks: Tuesday, July 4, about 9:10 p.m.

Best place to watch: Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Blvd.

Other activities: Family-friendly activities begin at 6 p.m. The mayor and council members begin the formal portion of the event at 9 p.m., including recognition of veterans, a presentation of colors and a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance led by Miss City of Maricopa and Miss City of Maricopa’s Outstanding Teen. Outside the Line will sing the national anthem. Onsite parking is $5 per car. VIP parking is $20. A complimentary shuttle service will be provided by the city of Maricopa from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. to and from Santa Rosa Elementary School, Santa Cruz Elementary School, Maricopa Wells Middle School, Butterfield Elementary School, Ace Hardware (ADA access), Saddleback Elementary School and Maricopa Elementary School.

Schnepf Farms/Queen Creek

Time of fireworks: Tuesday, July 4, about 9 p.m.

Best place to watch: Schnepf Farms, 24810 S. Rittenhouse Road

Other activities: Festivities are from 6 to 10 p.m. and include face-painting, giveaways, watermelon-eating contest and one of the largest fireworks shows in the East Valley. Admission is $10 or 10 cans of food per car. For more information visit www.queencreek.org.

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