0

GDOT prepares for big travel weekend

LAWRENCEVILLE - With more than a million travelers in Georgia set to depart this holiday weekend, it's going to be planes, trains and automobiles for everyone.

"Our Independence Day holiday brings a great opportunity for families to enjoy a three-day weekend and we expect a great many will head to the beaches, theme parks and community gatherings," said Kevin Blackwell, senior vice president of AAA Auto Club South. "And especially to enjoy fireworks displays."

According to AAA, travel for the holiday weekend as an entire nation will be down 1.3 percent when compared to last year. In Georgia, AAA said its polling shows a 2 percent reduction in air travel and a 1.3 percent decrease in auto travel compared to 2007. AAA also noted that gas prices have increased by more than a dollar a gallon since the previous Fourth of July while airfares and car rental rates have increased by 13 and 12 percent respectively. AAA estimates that the greatest number of auto travelers nationwide will originate in the Southeast.

Blackwell added that despite the fact more people are staying home this year, more than 13 million people nationwide are still planning a trip. That means more traffic on the highways he said.

To offset this, the Georgia Department of Transportation will scale back its construction projects across the state - suspending related lane closures on all interstate and major state system highways, including the resurfacing project on the downtown connector - through Sunday night to ease July 4 weekend traffic congestion. Beginning at noon today and continuing until 5 a.m. Monday, there will be no scheduled lane closures on any Georgia interstate highway or primary state route. The department notes that some work may continue on lesser-traveled state and local system roads.

Norcross resident Annette Gelbrich isn't going anywhere out of town this weekend. Instead, she's decided to volunteer along with her family at Atlanta's largest 10 kilometer race in the world.

"I'll just be running down Peachtree," she said.

And because Gelbrich is volunteering, she gets a great parking spot, too.

SideBar: FOURTH OF JULY EVENTS

Looking for something to do for the Fourth? Gwinnett's cities are offering many fun activities for the family around the Fourth of July weekend.

BUFORD: For the first time ever, the Mall of Georgia Fabulous Fourth celebration event will span two days, starting 2 p.m. Friday and ending 9 p.m. Saturday.

The Friday celebration will begin with live performances at the Village Amphitheatre that will span the rest of the day. In addition to prize-an-hour giveaways, there will be a Kids' Zone area, chock full of brightly colored, bouncy inflatables and carnival games. The Georgia Force, the Duluth-based Arena Football League team, will take the stage at 3 p.m. for a performance featuring the team's cheerleaders and mascot. With the self-proclaimed "grandest and brightest fireworks in Gwinnett," the Mall of Georgia will host a fireworks show at dusk, followed by the movie "Open Season," an animated film starring Ashton Kutcher and Martin Lawrence.

But don't worry; the fun doesn't end with the movie. On Saturday, the activities continue, starting at 10 a.m. The Dodge Ride and Drive Event will go from noon until 4 p.m., and the first 150 people to test drive a vehicle will receive a $20 Simon Malls Gift Card. Stone Echo will perform at 6:30 p.m. in the Village Amphitheatre, and live performances will continue until 9 p.m. For more information, call 678-482-8788 or visit www.mallofgeorgia.com.

BRASELTON: "Celebrate Braselton," the town's Independence Day celebration, will include a parade, vendors and live music from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Friday at Braselton Park. At dusk, Chateau Elan will host a fireworks show. The festivities are free. For more information, call 706-654-3915.

DULUTH: "Duluth Salutes America," featuring the United States Special Operations Command Parachute Team, will start at 6 p.m. today at Scott Hudgens Park, 4545 Rivergreen Parkway. There will also be a live band, food and fireworks. The event is free. For more information, call 770-476-3434.

LAKE LANIER ISLANDS: "Light Up the Lake Fireworks Independence Day Celebration" will be held from 10 a.m. until dark Friday at the Lake Lanier Islands Resort's Beach and WaterPark, 7000 Holiday Road. There will be live entertainment, games, family fun, poolside activities and a fireworks show at dusk. The cost is adults, $27.99; children 42" and under, $17.99; under 3, free. For more information, call 770-932-7200.

LAWRENCEVILLE: "Prelude to the 4th" will be held at 7:30 p.m. today at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse, 185 Crogan St. The Aurora Theatre will present "Oklahoma!" There will also be a fireworks display accompanied by a live rendition of "Stars and Stripes." The event is free. For more information, call 678-226-2639. "Gwinnett Glows," featuring arts and crafts, free children's activities and a live band, will be held Friday at the Historic Courthouse Square in Downtown Lawrenceville at 185 Crogan St. In addition to clowns, face painting, a fire juggler and trackless train rides, "Gwinnett Glows" will have a rock climbing wall, pony rides and live appearances from popular children's characters. The event is free. For more information, call 678-226-2639.

NORCROSS: The "Norcross pre-Independence Day Celebration" will be held from 5 until 11 p.m. on today at the Norcross Historic District at the intersection of South Peachtree Street and Jones Street. The event will feature clowns, magicians, live music, food, games and rides. The cost is free. For more information, contact 770-448-2122.

STONE MOUNTAIN: The "Fantastic Fourth Celebration" will be held at 9:30 p.m.today through Saturday at Stone Mountain Park. Beginning with the Laser Show Spectacular, the event will conclude with a traditional fireworks display. Friday, the Fourth, bursts of light will be shot from both the base and the top of the mountain. The laser show and fireworks are free; parking is $10. For more information, call 770-498-5690.

SUGAR HILL: "Sparks in the Park" will be held from 6:30 p.m. to midnight today at E.E. Robinson Park, 850 Level Creek Road. The celebrations will include live music, rides, fireworks and a movie. Listen to a performance by the Dave Matthews Tribute Band and watch "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer." All festivities are free. For more information, call 770-831-7413.