For Good Old-Fashioned Family Fun, there's a slice of Americana 45 minutes from home at the 78th annual St. Paul Rodeo. This year's parade theme is "Celebrating the Red, White and Blue," which they somehow didn't get around to in the last 77 years. American Cowboy magazine ranked their Tack Room Saloon "One of the Top 20 Cowboy Bars in the West" (I'll defer to them on this occasion), and there's a full-blown (and adorably quaint) parade, carnival, and BBQ cook-off before the rodeo gets going in the evening with barrel racing, steer wrestling, and a load of other stuff I've seen in movies.
St. Paul Rodeo, 20025 4th St NE, St. Paul, Wed-Sat, $14-24, stpaulrodeo.com for full schedule
About the same distance (but about half as good) is the Molalla Buckeroo, celebrating its centennial this year with a street parade and two whole rodeos that promise a dance tent, fireworks, and, of course, "nonstop rodeo action."
Molalla Buckeroo, 815 Shirley, Molalla, Wed-Sat, $13-15, molallabuckeroo.com for full schedule
Over the bridge in sunny Washington, the Fort Vancouver fireworks display has live entertainment, as well as the chance to look around the barracks and view a black powder demonstration, presumably to get you in the mood for the loud banging noises in the evening.
Independence Day at Fort Vancouver, 612 E Reserve, Vancouver, gates open at 8 am, fireworks 10:05 pm, $5-7 (parking $10/car), kids 12 & under free
For something a little less old school there's a celebration at Oaks Park, which is, conveniently, an amusement park already, so the carnival props will already be in place before their fireworks spectacular. Bring a picnic and let the kids wear themselves out on the rides before the first fuse is lit at dusk.
Oaks Park Amusement Park, 7805 SE Oaks Park, gates 10 am, rides noon, fireworks at dusk, $5
The Waterfront Blues Festival has earned its reputation as a weekend fixture over the last quarter-century or so, but this year they've outdone themselves. Over the weekend the event will play host to pioneering bluesman Taj Mahal, Eric Burdon and the Animals, and, best of all, Robert Plant. As in THE Robert Plant. However, it's the MarchFourth Marching Band on July 4 that could steal the show. For Portland newbies, they look like a cross between a macabre 19th century circus and a Pride march, and their music is, to say the least, international. Then there's that huge firework display over the city too. Oh, Portland. I'm swooning.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park, SW Naito & Columbia, Thurs-Sat, $10 & two cans of food, Sun $50-60, see waterfrontbluesfest.com for full schedule
East End has gone all out on their Block Party this year. A host of Portland's finest and heaviest bands will take to an outdoor stage until 11 pm when an indoor beach party gets going inside with three more excellent local acts. Highlights include Mercury favorites Gaytheist and magnificently unwashed metalheads Danava. For the indoor beach party, Guantanamo Baywatch are more than worthy headliners, not just because they have the best band name of all time, but also because their modern take on surf rock comes across perfectly in a live setting.
East End, 203 SE Grand, 4 pm, $5, 21+