Monday, July 22, 2024

Fireworks, music: A dozen ways to spend 4th of July in southeastern North Carolina

Fireworks displays are planned across the region from Surf City to downtown Wilmington, Carolina Beach to Oak Island and Southport for Independence Day festivities. (Port City Daily/File)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — It’s steamy on the coast as summer is in full swing — and come next week, it will be the pinnacle of tourist season as folks flock to the shore to celebrate the nation’s independence.

There are multiple ways to hail the red, white and blue across the region. Of course, there’s the statewide festival in Southport, with hundreds of thousands of people gathering over multiple days for concerts, the parade and street fair.

Downtown Wilmington is also preparing for its annual event at Riverfront Park, while Surf City, Carolina Beach and Oak Island also prepare for fireworks blasts.

Here are a dozen suggestions on how to spend the holiday.

New Hanover County

North Carolina Symphony Stars and Stripes
Wilson Center, 711 N. Third St. • Tickets start at $23

Annually, the North Carolina Symphony hosts a patriotic celebration of sounds, to take place Tuesday, July 2, at downtown’s Wilson Center. Led by conductor David Glover, with vocalist Andrea Edith Moore joining, the concerts will feature high-spirited classics and symbolic tunes. 

The show will last about an hour-and-a-half and tickets are $20; takes place at 6:30 p.m. The popular event is normally a sell-out.

Carolina Beach Boardwalk Blast
Gazebo and Boardwalk, Carolina Beach • Free

Normally, Carolina Beach hosts its free concerts and fireworks show on Thursdays, but this week it will be held on Wednesday, July 3.

Free music takes place at the Carolina Beach Gazebo along the Boardwalk from Port City Shakedown. Wilmington’s favorite party band performs Top 40 and dance music from the ‘80s through modern day. They perform at 6:30 p.m. and will break at 9 p.m. for fireworks over the Atlantic Ocean.e

City of Wilmington’s 4th of July Celebration
Riverfront Park, 10 Cowan St. • Free

A family-friendly event, the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra is taking the stage to perform patriotic tunes and popular tracks ahead of downtown’s fireworks display on July 4.

There also will be kids activities and food, beer and wine sold onsite (no outside food or drinks are allowed, except for a sealed water up to 1 gallon or an empty bottle to refill). The gates open at 5 p.m. and local band Live Music Company will perform at 5:30 p.m. before the orchestra takes over at 7 p.m. and performs for more than an hour-and-a-half. 

Joining WSO — led by conductor Dominic Talanca — will be guest artists from Opera House Theatre Company and Thalian Association Community Theatre.

The music concludes around 8:45 p.m., with the fireworks display over the Cape Fear River kicking off at 9:05 p.m.

Lawn chairs no taller than 9 inches and blankets are allowed; the venue only accepts cashless payment.

Parking on street is free and city decks — 929 N. Front St., 115 Market St., 114 N. Second St, 14 Grace St. — will be operating, as well as the Wilmington Convention Center deck at 515 Nutt St., and the county deck at 212 N. Second St. There will be a $10 fee in decks after 4 p.m.

Multiple streets will close downtown and surrounding it. 

The following streets will close as early at 6 p.m.

  • Water Street between Dock Street and Red Cross Street
  • Front Street between Dock Street and Red Cross Street
  • Market Street between Front Street & Water Street
  • Princess Street between N. Second Street & N. Water Street
  • Chestnut Street between N. Second Street & N. Water Street
  • Grace Street between N. Second St. & N. Water Street
  • Walnut Street between N. Second & N. Water Street

These streets will close at 9 p.m.

  • Davis Street between N. Third Street & N. Fourth Street
  • Northbound N. Fourth Street between Harnett Street & Davis Street
  • Harnett Street between N. Third Street & Front Street

Hannah Block USO/Community Arts Center Open House
Orange and Second streets • Free

Also on July 4, historic Hannah Block Historic USO and Community Arts Center is celebrating the Fourth by taking it back to the 1940s, with sodas priced 5 cents in the World War II era and free coffee and donuts served.

Staff will dress in garb from the period as well and there will be WWII exhibits open. The building has been restored to its 1943 appearance with reproduction furnishings.

Entertainment will be provided by the Cape Fear Swing Dance Society — known for dancing the Lindy Hop — is hosting a demonstration in the museum lobby. Plus, there will be a free introduction lesson at 2 p.m.

A 5-minute documentary, “Home Away From Home – the USO at 2nd and Orange” will screen through the event, which takes place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

4th of July at Cloud 9
9 Estell Place • Tickets: $10

If you want to be on a rooftop overlooking the Cape Fear, then Cloud 9 at Embassy Suites has your seat for fireworks on Independence Day.

The local band Juno will be playing, a duo consisting of Tom Gossin and Zach Brindisi. Thet two perform ‘80s throwbacks.

It’s a $10 fee for general admission — which doesn’t guarantee seating. However, tables are available to book for two to eight for $150 to $450. 

Freedom Fest
Waterline Brewing, 723 Surry St. • Free

Across town at the foot of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, Waterline is hosting its annual Freedom Fest to celebrate America’s founding.

Families are welcome to attend to enjoy games (and prizes), face painting, fairy hair, food trucks, a water balloon fight and a reptile petting zoo. Folkstone Stringband will perform live music as well. 

The event is free and kicks off at 1 p.m. Folkstone plays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

B.Y.O.P. Party
Eagle’s Dare, 420 N. Third St. • Admission $5

If cooling down is more your style on July 4, Eagle’s Dare is hosting a pool party … in a parking lot!

Located on Third and Red Cross streets, the bar started the celebration last year, with blow-up blue pools filling the grounds. Attendees bring their own pools, floaties and swimsuits to take a dip and sip on beverages served by Eagle’s Dare crew (though no bevs are allowed outside where pools are set up). Snacks and water are allowed, but there’s a cooler check to ensure alcohol isn’t included.

Professor Dub will be spinning tunes and the doors open at noon. Fireworks take place downtown at 9:05 p.m.

Brunswick County

Oak Island Beach Day
Oak Island Pier, 705 Ocean Drive • Free

As part of the official North Carolina 4th of July Festival, Oak Island is hosting beach day on Monday, July 1. This is to celebrate the municipality’s anniversary, which culminates in a fireworks display at 9 p.m.

North Carolina 4th of July Festival
Southport, various locations • Free

The week-long festival actually kicks off on Friday, June 28, and wraps Thursday, July 4, with more than two dozen events planned throughout the week (see the full schedule here).

However, July 4th proper will include the annual Southport parade at 11 a.m. — the route moving down Moore and Howe streets. Beforehand, the reading of the Declaration of Independence will take place at 10:15 a.m. and there is a flag-raising ceremony at 10:30 a.m.

An arts and craft fair will host numerous vendors and artisans from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Southport Waterfront Park, where food concessions also will be set up. Other events throughout the day include United Pro Wrestling Association’s match at 3 p.m. on Nash Street and live entertainment staged at Waterfront Park, including bands like The Doorsmen (3 p.m.) and Liquid Pleasure (7 p.m.).

Fireworks will fly at 9 p.m. over the water, visible from the park. Bands return to the stage to perform until 10 p.m.

Pender County

Surf City Independence Day Celebration
Soundside Park, Surf City • Free

Annually, Surf City hosts a celebration at Soundside Park, 517 Roland Ave. along the Intracoastal Waterway. It takes place this year on Wednesday, July 3.

There will be live music by Jim Quick and Coastline, performing beach music, R&B, Motown and more, plus food trucks. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome and fireworks will take place at dusk.

It’s free to attend.

Surf City 4th of July (Canal Streets) Parade
Third Street, Surf City • Free

It’s not a lineup of motor vehicles, rather a gathering of locals on bike, foot and golf carts, decked in Independence Day gear and the best of the red, white and blue.

Line up is at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, July 4, with an 11 a.m. start time. All children must be accompanied by an adult. The parade travels along the canal streets and starts at Third Street.

Onslow County

July 4th Concert and Fireworks Show
Rustic Barn at Half Moon, 135 Batting Cage Trail, Jacksonville, NC • 

Vacationers or residents in the Topsail area can travel to nearby Jacksonville for an Independence Day concert and fireworks show at The Rustic Barn at Half Moon. Gates open at 3 p.m. and Alex Williams (Kool and the Gang) will perform, followed by I-42 — a high energy, party band that plays Motown, beach, R&B, country, funk, hip-hop and rock.

The concerts will be followed with a fireworks show and there will be food, beer and wine sold onsite, plus vendor booths. Chairs and blankets are welcome on the farm, no outside food or drinks allowed. 

Tickets are $35 to $40 (children 5 and under are free), available here.


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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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