It's the Fourth of July again, the day when everyone across the U.S.A. is supposed to puff up his chest with pride and pat himself on the back for being fortunate enough to live in the land of the free and home of the brave. Well, as free and brave as any place can be when a certain dunce with a perpetual deer-in-the-headlights look is in charge. Don't kid yourself: That hollow lack-of-leadership sense among many of us will definitely lead to more than a few beer-soaked, beef-heavy, backyard celebrations where some moron blows off some fingers while attempting to ignite a bum Roman candle.
Provided people go easy on the alcohol and explosives, the holiday can be safe and even amusing. A variety of bashes taking place across the county -- from the sandy randy beaches to the animal-infested hinterlands -- may ensure just that. That isle of ill repute, Miami Beach, recently noted for its rowdy revelers, will cater to what it hopes are better-behaved new arrivals, who'll raise their hands and take the oath of citizenship at 7:00 tonight at 72nd Street and Collins Avenue. Their reward for pledging their allegiance: festive fireworks, of course, plus a concert by local salsero Willy Chirino and his five Latin-rockin' daughters, the Chirino Sisters. Also on the bill: vocalists Marleni and Marco Prado, and Payé, which the city's press office puzzlingly refers to as a "Latin infusion band."
On the mainland the more staid City of Coral Gables throws a Gables Fourth on the grounds of the Biltmore Hotel (1200 Anastasia Ave.). The day begins at 8:30 a.m. with golf and tennis tournaments, both of which require advance registration. Carnival games at 50 cents a pop, a bounce house, and face painting for kiddies will be offered at 5:00 p.m. As the sun sets, the Greater Miami Symphonic Band and the Redland Singers will belt out patriotic tunes, capped by a promised 25-minute fireworks show. Further north a small-town experience can be had at North Miami's July 4th Diamond Jubilee Celebration. The City of North Miami will join forces with its neighbor North Miami Beach at 6:00 p.m. at the North Miami Athletic Stadium (2155 NE 151st St.) for an event featuring local dignitaries, singers, gymnasts, marching bands, and spectacular bombs bursting in midair.
Those with zero tolerance for nocturnal fusillades may want to limit their merrymaking to the daylight hours. From 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Metrozoo (12400 SW 152nd St.) touts swing music and jazz by Steve Gryb and His Swing Band and tours of its new indoor, air-conditioned, hands-on interactive gallery (just steer clear of the Komodo dragons). Coconut Grove's Barnacle State Historic Park (3485 Main Hwy.) hosts an Old-Fashioned July 4th Picnic from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Guests are encouraged to don period costumes and party among kite-making demonstrators and antique cars on the grounds of the home built in 1891 by Grove pioneer Ralph Middleton Munroe. Entertainment will be provided by actress Judy Gail and folk-singer Grant Livingston. Afterward a parade of models attired in vintage bathing suits will strut their stuff and stay dry in more ways than one. Alcohol is prohibited in the park. So much for toasting freedom.