On the evening of Sept. 13, 1814, lawyer Frances Scott Key was dining aboard a British ship, negotiating the release of American prisoners in the War of 1812, when he was detained. From the deck of the HMS Surprise and later the HMS Minden, Key became a witness to history, watching British troops bombard Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore.
As the legend goes, Key was so moved when early the next morning he caught sight of the American flag “so gallantly streaming” above the fort, he sat down and composed a poem that in 1931 would become his country’s national anthem. That inspirational flag – known as the Great Garrison flag – is housed in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
This year, as Fairfax skies are illuminated by the red glare of fireworks exploding in dazzling hues, many of us will sing and others will recall the words of the anthem celebrating those “broad stripes and bright stars,” still waving 200 years later. After a day of picnics, parades and performances, twilight is a good time to ponder our fight to remain free.
In the event of rain, fireworks only will be rescheduled for July 5.
Independence Day Parade, 10 a.m. July 4
4100 Chain Bridge Road, around Historic Old Town Fairfax and passing the reviewing stand on Armstrong Street
The 48th annual parade features eight high school marching bands from as far west as California to the City’s own Fairfax High School Marching Rebels, large inflatable parade balloons, horses and clowns, and this year’s Grand Marshall, Uncle Sam. Parade shuttle buses run 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. from George Mason University, Woodson High School and Fairfax United Methodist Church.
Old Fashioned Fireman’s Day, 12:30 to 3 p.m.
Fire Station 3, 4081 University Drive
Area fire companies compete. Also, open for tours are the Fairfax Museum and Visitors Center, 10209 Main St., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Ratcliffe-Allison House, 10386 Main St., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Evening Show and Fireworks, 7 to 10 p.m.
Fairfax High School, 3501 Rebel Run
Music and dancing to rock ‘n’ roll favorites, Leggz. The City of Fairfax Band plays “The 1812 Overture” to herald the fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. Free shuttles run 6 to 9 p.m. from Woodson High School, 9525 Main St., and return until 11 p.m.
For details, call 703-385-7858 or visit www.fairfaxva.gov.
July 4th Celebration, 7 to 10 p.m. July 4
George Mason High School, 7124 Leesburg Pike
Free celebration with live performance by the Original Moonlighters Band starting at 7 p.m.; fireworks begin at 9:20 p.m. Bring blankets or chairs with flat bases. No alcohol, personal fireworks, or smoking permitted on school grounds.
For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.fallschurchva.gov.
July 4th Celebration, 6:30 to 10 p.m. July 4
Herndon Community Center, 814 Ferndale Ave. and Bready Park
Free event featuring arts and crafts, bingo and more. Live music with The Plaids playing songs from the ’80s, ’90s and ’2000s at 7:15 p.m. Hot dogs, hamburgers, funnel cakes and ice cream available for sale; bring your own water bottle for free refills. Fireworks display choreographed to music at dusk. Bring blankets or lawn chairs; no pets.
For details, call the Town of Herndon Parks and Recreation Department at 703-787-7300 or visit www.herndon-va.gov.
Third Annual Independence Day Concert and Fireworks, 3 to 10 p.m. July 5
Workhouse Arts Center, 9601 Ox Road
Free afternoon of events, including performances by local musicians FeelFree at 3 p.m. and Caravan of Thieves at 7 p.m. Art galleries open until 8:30 p.m.; fireworks at dusk. Food, snacks and beverages, including wine and beer, available for purchase. $10 parking fee per car (cash only).
For details, call 703-495-0001 or visit www.workhousearts.org.
4th of July Fireworks Show, 8 to 10 p.m. July 4
Langley High School sports fields, 6520 Georgetown Pike
Free celebration featuring McLean Community Center Governing Board Chair Chad Quinn as guest speaker and the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard of the Military District of Washington presenting the colors. Fireworks begin about 9:15 p.m. Free shuttle bus service available from St. John’s Episcopal Church, 6715 Georgetown Pike, and MCC, 1234 Ingleside Ave., beginning at 7 p.m. No smoking, pets, fireworks, sparklers or alcohol.
For details, call 703-790-0123, TTY: 711, or visit www.mcleancenter.org.
Fourth of July Festivities, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 4
Lake Fairfax Park, 14000 Lake Fairfax Drive
Activities include trails to hike, boats for the lake, a skatepark to enjoy, and playgrounds and picnic areas in the shade. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole opens at 10 a.m.; get there early. Carousel and boat rides are from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; puppet shows for children from 4 to 6 p.m. Foods, dessert treats and beverages available for sale.
Fireworks, 9:15 p.m.
Visible throughout the park.
Performance by the U.S. Army Field Band. Hill overlooking the lake usually provides the best views.
For details, www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/lakefairfax.
Firecracker 5K for the Troops, 8 to 10:30 a.m. July 4
Potomac River Running Store, 11911 Democracy Drive
3.1-mile race presented by Leidos to benefit the USO of Metropolitan Washington. Battle of the Branches competition benefits the military branch with the most runners registered. Also, live music, face painting, flags and free massages. Collecting notebooks and pencil sharpeners to “Stuff the Mobile USO Truck,” to outfit backpacks for 4,000 local military children.
Post-race Buffet Brunch, 8:30 a.m. to noon
American Tap Room, 1181 Library St.
Specially priced Deliciously Endless Breakfast Buffet, $15 adults, $7 children. Runners receive a $5-off coupon.
For details, visit www.prraces.com/firecracker.
July 4th Celebration, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 4
Vienna Community Center, 120 Cherry St. SE.
Free activities include games and rides, arts and crafts vendors, circus show, community organization booths, antique cars, chili cook-off, kids craft corner and live music featuring B2B, a Jimmy Buffett tribute band, mixing trop-rock, Caribbean country, original music and songs you will know by heart, 12:15 to 4 p.m.
Pooches on Parade, 11 a.m.; registration 10:30 a.m.
Vienna Community Center Gazebo and Festival Field
Bring your pets dressed in their finest Independence Day costumes and participate in a parade, sponsored by Hope Advanced Veterinary Center, Pet Lovers Companion and NOVADog Magazine.
Old Bay Circus Show, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.
Vienna Community Center softball field
Fireworks Show, 9:15 p.m.; spectator seating areas open 5 p.m.
Southside Park, 1315 Ross Drive SW
Pre-fireworks entertainment by Fat Chance at 7 p.m. Seating available at adjacent Yeonas Park with limited seating at Southside Park.
For a map of the fireworks show site and schedule information, visit www.viennava.gov. For rain cancelation information, call 703-255-7842.