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Cities put on variety of events for Fourth of July

LAWRENCEVILLE - It's that time of year again when explosions of red, white and blue dance in the night sky to celebrate our country's birthday. And there's no better way to join the festivities than to enjoy a day of free concerts, family activities, fireworks and a movie at the Mall of Georgia's Fabulous Fourth celebration. For the first time ever, the event will span two days, starting at 2 p.m. Friday and ending at 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 featuring the voices of 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.

Here's a look at other Fourth of July celebrations around Gwinnett:

· 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. Thursday 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 Water Park, 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 inches 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. Thursday 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 to 11 p.m. Thursday 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, call 770-448-2122.

· STONE MOUNTAIN: The "Fantastic Fourth Celebration" will be held at 9:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at Stone Mountain Park. Beginning with the Lasershow Spectacular, the event will conclude with a traditional fireworks display. Friday 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 Thursday at E.E. Robinson Park, 850 Level Creek Road. The celebration 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.