Gas prices got you down this holiday weekend?
As oil prices skyrocket to record highs, and as regular unleaded gas inches closer to the $4 a gallon mark, many locals are choosing to celebrate Independence Day at home.
According to AAA Carolinas, less travelers will be hitting the road and airways this week, marking the first decrease in July 4 holiday travel since 2001.
"The high price of fuel may be forcing many travelers to change their vacation plans," said David Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.
Lucky for us, there's plenty to choose from to make the Fourth festive and fun.
Early firework sales are booming at some local stands, with sales expected to increase today and Friday.
"I had a $300 sale to one customer first thing this morning," said Klayton Hager, who on Monday was running the Fireworks stand in York outside Wal-Mart. "By Friday, our shelves will be empty."
Hager said artillery shells are big this year, along with small rockets and sparklers.
Johnny Riddley, owner of Johnny's Discount Party Shop and Fireworks in Clover, agrees. He said multi-shots and double-impact shells also are big.
Riddley said sales are steady at his shop -- a "surprise, considering the economy."
Hager said the high gas prices are likely helping his sales.
"People have decided to entertain themselves at home instead of going on vacation," Hager said.
If you're looking for an even bigger celebration, there are plenty of festivities close to home.
• The McCelvey Center, 212 E. Jefferson St., York, will hold an Independence Day celebration from 6-10 p.m. Friday. Bring your lawn chairs and settle in for the 6 p.m. opening ceremony, featuring patriotic music, the Pledge of Allegiance and posting of the colors. Bobby Plair, Jr., will play the National Anthem on trumpet. Then stay for food, kid-friendly activities, a performance by the Plair band and fireworks to close out the night.
• Celebrate American Independence will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at Historic Brattonsville. Join reenactors as they honor our nation's birth 1840s style with games, cooking demos, musket firings, children's military drills and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Free with regular admission.
• The Lake Wylie community July 4th fireworks display will be at dusk, or around 9:45 p.m., on Friday near the Buster Boyd Bridge. The best viewing sites are the Buster Boyd Bridge Boat Landing, T-Bones on the Lake outside deck, Rey Azteca deck at Lake Wylie Plaza and Lake Wylie Italian and Pizza on patio at Lake Wylie Plaza. The display is funded solely through donations.
On Monday morning, the Lake Wylie Fireworks Fund remained $3,000 short of the $20,000 needed to light the fuse Friday evening."We're $3,000 off from this year's goal, and we'll need $10,000 for the fireworks next year," said Andy Kane, who manages the community fund. Send donations to the Camp Thunderbird fireworks fund, One Thunderbird Lane, Lake Wylie, S.C. 29710.
Not too far away
A short drive to Rock Hill or Fort Mill will provide even more variety.
• Red, White & Boom! is from 5:30 to 10 p.m. tonight at City Hall Plaza in downtown Rock Hill. Music from Heavy Sandwich will start at 5:30 p.m., followed by Sticky Fingers, a Rolling Stones tribute band. Fireworks are at 9:30 p.m. Alcohol available.
• Carowinds' Night of Fire is at 10 p.m. Friday. This spectacular takes place at Carowinds and features more than 1,000 fireworks during the 25-minute program. The show is synchronized to patriotic music, and is free with park admission. For details, call (800) 888-4386.
• The Charlotte Knights Skyshow tailgate party begins at 5 p.m. Friday, with food sold at the party and inside the stadium. Parking is $5 on the stadium grounds, or shuttles will run from Carolina Place beginning at 4:30 p.m. The Knights play the Durham Bulls at 7:15 p.m.; Jeep will give away Independence Day T-shirts, while they last. Petro Express Texaco will have a contest to win free gas for a year. Fireworks follow the game, synchronized to a patriotic soundtrack played live in the stadium and broadcast on WBT Radio 1110 AM and 99.3 FM.
• Ebenezer Grill's Fourth of July hot dog eating contest is 1 p.m. Friday. Those wanting to test their weiner-gobbling skills can sign up from 11 a.m. Friday until the event begins. The challenge is to see which contestant can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes. Contestants must pay a $10 entry fee and all proceeds go to the York County Cancer Association. The winner gets $50.
There are also plenty of festivities in Charlotte, including the annual sky show in uptown, but our pick is the U.S. National Whitewater Center, which hosts its first July 4 celebration, the "Red Rocks, Whitewater & Bluegrass Celebration," from 2 to 10 p.m. Friday. Festivities include music, food, activities for children and center activities like whitewater rafting and rock climbing. The day ends with a fireworks show. For details, call (704) 391-3900.
-- The Herald and Lake Wylie Pilot contributed.