Want to experience a great Arizona-style Fourth of July weekend? Head to the state's small towns, where Independence Day is celebrated with gusto. You’ll find everything from fireworks and parades to the more unusual – anvil firing, egg frying and a mucking contest.
On July 6, forget trying to get anywhere fast along Highway 260 through this small community in the midst of the Sitgreaves National Forest. Instead, get out of your car, relax and enjoy the parade, part of the annual Fourth of July Festival in the Pines. The parade features some 110 entries, ranging from Boy Scout troops to car clubs, and has drawn up to 30,000 spectators. It winds up at Mogollon High School, the locale of the night’s fireworks display. The Tall Timbers Park is also the site of a weekend-long arts and crafts festival, music performances and children’s play area.
Surrounded by forests and serving as a gateway to the White Mountains, this city is usually a good place to chill during the summer. But on July 3, it’s abuzz with Independence Day activities. A stick-to-your-ribs breakfast of biscuits and gravy starts the day at Festival Marketplace, where you’ll also find an art show and farmers’ market. That’s followed by the Show Low FreedomFest Parade, arguably one of the biggest Fourth of July parades in the state, boasting about 130 entries and 100,000 spectators. Look for drill teams, equestrian groups and more marching the 1.5-mile route along the city’s main street. Later, the action moves to Show Low High School’s campus, where band concerts precede the fireworks display.
Taylor, located in a broad valley north of the White Mountains, also celebrates Independence Day on July 3. If you’re coming in the night before, be forewarned: you won’t be able to sleep in. Starting at 5 a.m., volunteers “fire the anvil” at various locales around town, a pioneer tradition that involves launching an old-fashioned anvil into the air with a gunpowder blast. Once the whole town is launched out of bed, there’s an array of activities to attend, including a barbecue and a rodeo at the Taylor Rodeo Complex. If you can keep your eyes open, the evening ends with fireworks and, later, a dance at the rodeo grounds.
One of Arizona’s quintessential Route 66 towns, Williams whoops it up, all-American style, in and around its historic downtown district. July 1 through 4, the Arizona Cowboy Shooters Association gets things fired up with a shooting competition. On July 3 and 4, the aroma of smoked beef brisket and ribs wafts around town as the Northern Arizona Barbecue Festival pits professional and backyard ‘cuers in Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned competitions. July Fourth, grab a spot along Main Street (Route 66) for the annual Home Town Fourth of July parade, where more than 50 entries, ranging from a tractor club to a K–9 drill team, strut their stuff. In between, look for an ice cream social, corn roast and a vintage baseball game.
North Central Arizona
Under the pines along Arizona’s Mogollon Rim, the Pine-Strawberry Arts & Crafts Guild Craft Festival has been a shopping institution for 30 years. Named for the two neighboring communities along Highway 87, the festival takes place at the Pine Community Center July 3 and 4, and features 85 artisans who sell furniture, pottery, jewelry, fountains and more. Come early both days for the fire department’s pancake breakfast, or fill up on hearty Navajo tacos and other food options throughout the day.
In this historic town, Fourth of July means cowboys. The World’s Oldest Rodeo, a tradition since 1888 and the area’s biggest annual event, runs June 28 through July 4 at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds and includes bull riding, roping, steer wrestling and other feats of derring-do. During the weekend, you’ll find plenty of other reasons to keep wearing your cowboy boots, including rodeo dances, parades, the coronation of the rodeo queen and even “cowboy church,” a non-denominational service. A citysponsored carnival and fireworks display cap the weeklong festivities on July 4 at Pioneer Park.
West Coast/Western Arizona
Lake Havasu City
Bring a swimsuit and sunscreen to celebrate the Freedom Festival here on the shores of Lake Havasu, a popular recreation site behind Parker Dam on the Colorado River. All of the action happens at the city’s Rotary Park, where a beach and swimming area will encourage you to cool off throughout the day. The Fourth starts with a barbecue at the park, followed by extreme desserts in the form of pie- and watermelon-eating contests. Adults will like the festival’s newest attraction, the beer garden, in addition to food vendors serving throughout the event. Live music precedes the evening’s fireworks, which are shot out over the lake.
Residents of this old mining community along Route 66 took the expression “hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk” literally, and thus began a long-running Fourth of July tradition. The annual Oatman Sidewalk Egg Fry starts at high noon on the Fourth, when desert temperatures can easily sizzle past 105 degrees. Contestants get two eggs, a piece of foil and 15 minutes to make the most edible fried egg. In between, keep your eggs and eyes peeled for Wild West shootouts on the streets and the famous roaming wild burros of Oatman, descendants of gold miners’ pack animals.
This historic copper mining town likes to celebrate the Fourth of July vintage-style. The celebration starts July 1, with the Bisbee Copper Kings Baseball Tournament at 101-year-old Warren Ballpark, what is thought to be the country’s oldest professional ballpark. On July 4, residents get up early to watch kids race coasters (a kind of gravity-powered go-kart) down hilly streets, then head to Vista Park for “Power from the Past,” a display of antique machinery, including fly-wheel engines churning out ice cream. In Bisbee’s historic Brewery Gulch district, events such as mucking and hard-rock-drilling contests reflect the town’s copper-filled past. After dark, it’s old-fashioned fireworks.
Don’t stay up too late for the street dance the night of July 3 at Veterans’ Memorial Park in this town on the San Pedro River. You’ll want to get up early on the Fourth to catch the popular Pets & People Parade, which has plenty of “aw” moments and pooches in Uncle Sam costumes. The parade ends at the park, where the day’s activities include a chili cook-off and live music. In the evening, there’s a concert by the 36th Army Band from Fort Huachuca, the U.S. Army base in Sierra Vista. The band’s booming notes of the 1812 Overture segue into the ka-boom of real fireworks.