Midpeninsula celebrates Independence Day

The top picks for fun and festive Fourth of July events

Locals can explore numerous Fourth of July festivities next week, including a chili cook-off in Palo Alto, an art festival in Redwood City, a concert in Mountain View and a rodeo in Woodside. And yes, there will be fireworks. Parades? But of course. Check out our guide to some of the most popular and patriotic local events.

Los Altos

'Glorious Fourth' festival

10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Shoup Park, 400 University Ave., Los Altos; Glorious Fourth

Los Altos' free annual celebration, the "Glorious Fourth" festival, features live performances from musical groups, including the Ye Olde Towne Band and The Unicorns, along with games, food and other activities.


Los Altos Hills

Fourth of July Parade

9:30-11 a.m. starting at 26379 Fremont Road, Los Altos Hills; Los Altos Hills parade

The 11th annual Fourth of July parade will start with a gathering of participants at the Los Altos Hills Town Hall before marching down Fremont Road dressed in red, white and blue (no horses or fossil-fueled vehicles permitted). The parade will end at Gardner Bullis School, where families and friends can gather for cool drinks and watermelon slices.


Menlo Park

Fourth of July parade and celebration

11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Burgess Park, 701 Laurel St., Menlo Park; Menlo Park parade

Menlo Park's annual Fourth of July parade will begin at 11:45 a.m. at Santa Cruz Avenue and Chestnut Street. Attendees are invited to decorate bikes and wagons but no motor vehicles are allowed. In addition to the parade, the celebration also will include live music from the local band Hella Good, climbing walls, bouncy castles, arts and crafts stations, mini golf and more. The event is free but $10 wristbands are required for some activities.


Mountain View

Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular

5-10 p.m. at Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View events; Mountain View

Local children's musician Andy Z will be partnering with the San Francisco Symphony to give a family-friendly performance at the Shoreline Amphitheatre for the 33rd annual Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular. He will perform at 5 p.m., followed by the symphony's performance.

"I write and perform my own songs," the Redwood City native said. "I'm going to be mixing them into some traditional American songs like 'This Land is Your Land.'"

While this is Andy Z's first time performing for the Fourth of July at Shoreline, he has been performing at Foster City's annual Fourth of July celebration for the past decade. This year he is planning on doing both performances in the same day, with a set starting at noon in Foster City. In previous years, his other traditions included participating in Redwood City's ParadeRun and downtown parade.

"Now my tradition is basically performing, and in the afternoon I'll spend time with my family," he said.

The San Francisco Symphony's performance will begin at 8 p.m. This year's theme is "To the moon and back," celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The symphony will be led by conductor Edwin Outwater with performances from vocalists Capathia Jenkins and Constantine Maroulis. The genres range from classical to pop, and include chart-topping hits as well as songs from movie scores and soundtracks.

The fireworks show will commence at the end of the concert, starting around 9:50 p.m. Tickets to the concert are $15-30, plus a $20 parking fee.


Palo Alto

Chili Cook-off and Summer Festival

Noon to 5 p.m. at Mitchell Park, 600 E. Meadow Drive, Palo Alto; Chili Cook-off

On the Fourth of July, 11 teams will compete for the title of best chili in Palo Alto at the city's's 38th annual Chili Cook-off at Mitchell Park.

Unlike previous years, this year's cook-off will be approved and sanctioned by the International Chili Society, which is hosting the World Championship Chili Cook-off in Iowa in September, according to the event website. All cooks will be required to be ICS members; however, the city of Palo Alto will provide competing cooks a one-time membership. According to Stephanie Douglas, the city's superintendent of recreation services, the annual event is a great way for neighbors to gather, get to know one another and celebrate the community they live in.

Of the 11 teams that have registered for the competition, three are new this year: Sound Bites, The Musical Fruit and MB's Place. The seven returning teams include Super Shounak's Super Sonic Tonic, El Viaje Misterioso, Hung Over Chili, Karate Kids, Lounge Lizard, Chili Chili Bang Bang, Ratrod Chili and the Klemens Family. All teams are restricted to cooking traditional red chili, homestyle chili, chili verde or veggie chili. According to Douglas, the best approach going into the cook-off is to "have fun and stick to your family's recipe."

David Chase, a member of last year's winning team California Red, said he enjoyed his experience competing in the cook-off. His team prepared beef chili with top sirloin cut into cubes, green poblano peppers, jalapeno, fresh cilantro, fresh onions and fresh ground pepper.

"It's a very, very busy day for the cook teams," Chase said. "Chatting with the customers is always fun, and we try to answer all their questions."

Chase has 19 years of chili cook-offs under his belt but has only competed with California Red at the Palo Alto Chili Cook-off since 2017. However, due to prior commitments, he and the team will not be attending the event this year.

"Never experiment at a cook-off," Chase said, offering a word of advice to the new teams. "Don't let your chili burn have someone watching it all the time. Read the rules and guidelines multiple times and incorporate them into your plan."

In addition to the top honor of best overall chili, awards will be given for second and third place, plus "People's Choice," "Best Spirit" and "Best Decorated Booth."

There will be 2,000 tasting tickets sold for $5 each, Douglas said. Each ticket will include five tastings and a ballot to vote. She expects the event to attract around 5,000 to 6,000 people. In addition to chili, there will be live music, a kids area with bouncy houses, outdoor lawn games, face painting and food trucks.

The cook-off will be held at Mitchell Park, located at 600 East Meadow Drive. There will be a shuttle provided for those who park at the nearby Cubberley Community Center at 4000 Middlefield Road. The event will start at noon, and the chili tasting is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. All proceeds from the 2019 Chili Cook-Off tasting tickets will benefit the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation.


Redwood City

Pancake Breakfast

7:30-10:30 a.m. at Redwood City Fire Department Station 9, 755 Marshall St., Redwood City

The Redwood City Fire Department is home to the annual Fourth of July pancake breakfast at the main Marshall Street fire station. Breakfast is 7:30-10:30 a.m. and will benefit the Redwood City Firefighters Association.


Parade Run 5K

8-10 a.m., downtown Redwood City; Parade Run

This family-friendly 5K race along the downtown Redwood City parade route raises money for the Redwood City Education Foundation and Redwood City School District. The race begins at 8 a.m. and is open to people of all ages and ability levels. Attendees will loop around the parade route three times. Adult tickets are $45 and youth tickets are $35. All children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult, and no pets are allowed. Participants can register for the race at sweattracker.com/Registration/ParadeRun.


Independence Day Parade and Festival

9 a.m. to 5 p.m., downtown Redwood City; Redwood City Parade

Redwood City is home to the largest Independence Day parade in Northern California, attracting hundreds of entries and thousands of spectators each year. The parade will begin at the corner of Brewster Avenue and Winslow Street, and the 1.3-mile route circles through the historic downtown area. The parade will include about 200 groups sorted into different classes including categories for floats, bands, drum corps, military groups, drill teams, baton corps, vehicles and equestrian units. Past participants include Miss California, the Redwood City Girl Scouts and the Peninsula Roller Girls. The post-parade festival includes arts and crafts booths, a food court, beer and wine booths, and information booths from community groups, along with a battle of the bands performance between the marching bands of Stanford University and the University of California at Davis.


Chalk Full of Fun on the Square Festival

8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Courthouse Square, 2200 Broadway; Chalk festival

Sponsored by University Art, the Redwood City Civic Cultural Commission and the Peninsula Celebration Association, the fifth annual chalk-art festival will be held at the Courthouse Square in downtown Redwood City on July 3 and 4. Artist teams will be assigned a section of concrete ranging from 9 to 144 square feet depending on skill level and experience. Participants are provided with materials, including chalk, shade, lunch, snacks and water. The finished designs range from simple shapes to pop culture references to intricate designs and optical illusions.



9:30 p.m., Port of Redwood City

The annual fireworks display over the Port of Redwood City will start around 9:30 p.m.



Junior Rodeo and Parade

7:30 a.m. at Mounted Patrol Grounds, 521 Kings Mountain Road; MPSMC

The Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County hosts this annual family-friendly tradition, where more than 100 people will participate in events including roping, women's barrel racing, and bull riding at the Mounted Patrol Grounds in Woodside. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for children ages 5 to 18 and free for children under the age of 5.

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