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Events promise bigger bang for U.S. birthday

LAWRENCEVILLE - Cheap backyard sparklers don't stand a chance when compared to the big-budget pyrotechnics planned for this Fourth of July around Gwinnett County.

The Mall of Georgia in Buford is pledging the "grandest and brightest fireworks" in Gwinnett, with two tons of fireworks shot off in a 15-minute, digitally controlled, musically synchronized bonanza.

"This year we're trying to take it to another level," marketing director Josh Zimmer said. "The whole nine yards."

The mall will run three free shuttles to transport people from other areas of the mall to the event area to alleviate traffic. The sixth annual Fourth of July event will feature a car show and a performance by rising country music star Jessica Urick of Grayson.

The annual Gwinnett Glows celebration is being held at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse in downtown Lawrenceville for the first time this year.

This year it boasts an 18-minute fireworks show, complemented by food vendors, live music and kids' activities - including a mini Ferris wheel.

Gwinnett County spokeswoman Heather Sawyer said the event was moved from in front of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center to give the event more of a "hometown feel."

July Fourth may only be one day, but Stone Mountain is stretching out Independence Day festivities over the course of four days. From July 1 to 4, festivities will last from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, concluding with a laser show and fireworks.

Christine Parker, the park's spokeswoman, said the July Fourth show usually draws between 50,000 and 70,000 people and will use 40 percent more fireworks than last year.

"We always want to make our fireworks show the best around," she said.

Those willing to take the drive up to Lake Lanier will get to witness north Georgia's largest fireworks show, Light up the Lake. Games, live entertainment and music will be also on hand throughout the day.

When it comes to fireworks, it seems the mantra is "You can never have too many."

With dozens of July Fourth options for patriotic families, each venue seems to be pulling out all the stops on their celebrations to draw out as many people as possible.

The Mall of Georgia has expanded their "Kids' Zone," which includes carnival games and inflatable rides, and the fireworks will be followed by a showing of the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie.

Several events will kick off Independence Day on Monday. A free concert and play will be held during the third annual Star Spangled Square: Prelude to the Fourth at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse. Duluth Celebrates America will feature performances by the Silver Wings Parachute Team and the Army Ground Forces Band. Norcross will also celebrate Monday with fireworks, music and pony rides.

And if you want to go the old-school route, head over to Loganville for the city's first annual Fourth of July celebration.

The day's events will include a downtown parade, a watermelon-eating contest, foot races and a Frisbee contest, concluded by a fireworks show at 10 p.m.