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Freedom Fair is back with music, air show and fireworks

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When it comes to celebrating America's birthday in the Northwest, it doesn't get any bigger than Freedom Fair, which is expected to draw 100,000-plus to a two-mile stretch of Ruston Way Waterfront on Fourth of July for music, air shows, food and more, all culminating in the high-decibel bombast of the fireworks show.

Among the biggest deals the non-profit Tacoma Events Commission has lined up for this year is an appearance by Mike Pinera – of Iron Butterfly and Alice Cooper fame – who will headline the America Be Strong Stage at Camp Patriot at 8 p.m.

New this year is a stage hosted by the Swiss Tavern, which will be set up at Dickman Mill Park. That stage will showcase Insuburban Avenue, Strictly Business and other teen bands that participate in monthly Puget Sound Music for Youth showcases at the venue.

The Duke's Chowder House Stage will again host the finals of the South Sound Blues Association's annual Back to Beale Street Competition, with the winner earning a trip to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis

“The guy that won it last year that went to Memphis, he's back again this year,” said Tacoma Events Commission president Gary Grape, who also runs the South Sound Blues Association. “That's CD Woodbury, so he's kind of defending his championship. Then another band that was in the finals last year is back again, and that's King Combo. Then we've got two new bands. They're pretty seasoned groups in the Northwest area. It's Shelly Ely's band, called SASS. It's their first time in the competition. Then there's a band who moved up here from Portland a couple years ago, Linda Myers Band.”

More than two dozen of bands will take multiple stages starting at 11 a.m., the likes of The Blues Brothers Revue (Blues Brothers tribute), Maia Santell and House Blend (blues) and The Approach (hip-hop, reggae.) But music will be notably interrupted twice during the course of the day, for the 1:30 p.m. Freedom Fair Air Show and for the grand finale fireworks display at 10:10 p.m. A soundtrack for the latter will be broadcast on KLCK-FM (Click, 98.9) and KLAY-AM (1180).

For those who don't get the “oohs” and “ahs” out of their system on the Fourth, there will be more planes and pyrotechnics at the related Wings & Wheels Airshow, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 5 at Tacoma Narrows Airport.

Freedom Fair is a non-profit event put on by the Tacoma Events Commission, which is asking for suggests a donation of $2 to $15. Those can be made online at


Freedom Fair entertainment schedule

America Be Strong Stage at Camp Patriot

Tony La Stella Duo (11 a.m.)

Insuburban Avenue (12:30 p.m.)

USS Nimitz Color Guard and Drill Team (3:30 p.m.)

Six Strings in a Box (4:30 p.m.)

Rural Route 3 (6 p.m.)

Mike Pinera (8 p.m.)

Duke's Chowder House Blues Stage

Maia Santell and House Blend (noon)

Linda Myers Band (3 p.m.)

S.A.S.S. (4 p.m.)

CD Woodbury Band (5 p.m.)

King Kom Beaux (6 p.m.)

Back to Beal Street winner announcement (7 p.m.)

Stay Grounded (7:30 p.m.)

The Approach (8:45 p.m.)

Katie Downs Stage

Wasted on the Way (noon)

Shake It Up (3 p.m.)

Threshold (6 p.m.)

Marine Park – east end

Congo Productions Drum Circle (2 p.m.)

Ram Bighorn Stage

Fabulous Johnsons featuring Spike O'Neil (noon)

Tumbling Dice/Diamond Experience with Billy Farmer (2 p.m.)

Michael Crain Band (4 p.m.)

4 More (6 p.m.)

Blues Brothers Revue (8 p.m.)

The Swiss Stage at Dickman Mill Park

Skypen (11 a.m.)

Barn Tea (11:45 a.m.)

Insuburban Avenue (3:30 p.m.)

Strictly Business (4:30 p.m.)

Reign of Sun (5:30 p.m.)

Clear the Chaos (6:30 p.m.)

Unsupervised (7:30 p.m.)

Mystic Vines (8:30 p.m.)

Freedom Fair Air Show (1:30 p.m.)

Fireworks show (10:10 p.m.)