Fourth of July fun in Central Arkansas

4th of July Fireworks at the Amphitheater on the Riverwalk in Little Rock
4th of July Fireworks at the Amphitheater on the Riverwalk in Little Rock

Problem: The countdown to 4th of July weekend has begun, and you haven’t made plans for the big day yet. Solution: Check out this quick-and-dirty guide to 4th festivities in and around Little Rock. And you know what’s even better than the fireworks closing out most of these events? All of them are FREE!

Both Pinnacle Mountain and Petit Jean state parks are hosting historical-themed games, contests and activities that will recall Independence Day celebrations of yesteryear. At Fun on the Fourth, kids will enjoy water-balloon volleyball, sprinkler tug-of-war, stilt-walking and more. Where: Pinnacle Mountain State Park. When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. More info: (501) 868-5806. And the July 4th Fun and Games Day provides a full day of competitive events including three-legged and wheelbarrow races, watermelon eating and seed-spitting contests, and more, all capped off with a concert.

In addition to the fireworks, the highlight of Maumelle’s 4th Fest is the city’s 3rd Annual Cardboard Boat Race, which is Central Arkansas’s own version of the 30-year staple in Heber Springs. Other activities include an “American Heroes”-themed parade, vendors and concessions, a kids’ inflatables area, recitations of both the Declaration of Independence and the Pledge of Allegiance, and live entertainment. Where: Lake Willastein Park.

Beebe’s Fourth of July Extravaganza fills the Beebe Ballpark with food, drinks, ice cream, popcorn and live entertainment from Grammy-nominated gospel artists the Bowling Family. Special treats for the kids include water slides and face painting; expert balloon-twister Mr. Pocket will also be on hand. This event is Beebe’s largest of the year; for convenience a shuttle service from the ASU campus will be available beginning at 4 p.m. Don’t forget your lawn chairs! Where: Beebe Ballpark

Get yourself down to Sherwood’s 4th of July Family Celebration early, because the hot dogs, chips and water probably won’t last long. Munch on those while enjoying magician Tommy Terrific before heading over to the Kids Zone for balloon twisting, carnival games, inflatables, face painting and patriotic temporary tattoos. 7 p.m. brings a program honoring military heroes and celebrating our independence. Afterwards, the 106th Army Band of the Army National Guard will perform until the fireworks begin. Where: Sherwood Forest

Jacksonville will celebrate our independence with Big Bang on the Range, an evening event offering inflatables and concessions. Bring a blanket or lawn chair! Where: Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex

Last but definitely not least, the state’s largest 4th of July event, Pops on the River, returns to downtown Little Rock for its 33rd year with a full day of music, food, vendors, a classic car show and entertainment including the Oh Say! Can You Sing? contest, a Salute the Troops program, and, of course, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra led by Phillip Mann. Active or retired military can receive discounts and promotions through the event’s Military Appreciation Program. Where: Riverfront Park

If the excitement of a 30,000-person Pops crowd gets to be too much, march over to the Historic Arkansas Museum and party like early Arkansans might have. Frontier Fourth of July activities include an old-fashioned parade, 19th century music and encounters with people from the past. You can even sign your own copy of the Declaration of Independence in the print shop. Where: Historic Arkansas Museum