Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is a happy time in Southwest Colorado. Historically, the real start of the busiest tourist season, the holiday is not only a commemoration of American freedom but a celebration of summer. Falling, as it does this year, on a Friday, the resulting three-day weekend only heightens the enjoyment.

Fun and freedom, however, go hand-in-hand with responsibility and, in this case, that primarily means being careful with fire. There may not be formal fire bans in place for county or federal lands, but conditions nonetheless warrant extreme caution.

Not that such care need dampen anyone’s enjoyment of the holiday. There will be something to please almost anyone.

Durango will see a gourmet breakfast at Rotary Park, a flea market for kids, a picnic and public readings by Fort Lewis College – all at Buckley Park – as well as a barbecue at the Elks Lodge and a street dance on Main Avenue. Of course, there will also be the Stars and Stripes Parade and the Salute to America Fireworks. It just would not be Independence Day without those.

Bayfield has a similar line-up made all the more impressive in that the town is smaller. Things kick off with the Lion’s Club Pancake Breakfast and conclude with fireworks and a performance by the band Carbon Red in Joe Stephenson Park. In between, there will be a kids’ carnival, a softball tournament, a horseshoe tournament, a pet parade and the Calvary Presbyterian Church Pie and Craft Sale. Best of all, however, is Bayfield’s justly famous and always well-attended Fourth of July Parade.

Silverton and Vallecito also play host to a lively series of events. In San Juan County, there will be a brass-band performance, the Ducky Derby, a picnic and the Rhubarb Festival and Ice Cream Social. Best of all might be the parade – followed immediately by the Fireman Water Fight – and, of course, fireworks. Festivities at Vallecito center around an arts and craft fair and live music, with fireworks over the lake to follow.

Check the Herald for a complete listing of events and times. Information is also available at www.durangogov.org, www.bayfieldgov.org, http://silvertoncolorado.com and www.vallecitolakechamber.com.

But while everyone is encouraged to enjoy the shows at any one of those spots, nobody should be entertaining themselves with fireworks of any sort. Doing so is not legal, and it is not safe. That is particularly true on National Forest lands, where violators risk six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The danger of wildfire, however, is not limited to fireworks. And with the peak of the summer season approaching, now is a good time for all of us to remember some simple rules.

Before camping or using fire on federal lands, check with the Forest Service about the level of fire danger. Clear all brush or debris for a 10-foot radius before starting a campfire. Have water and a shovel handy. Never leave any fire unattended. Smoke only in cleared or designated areas (or, better yet, do not smoke at all.)

Above all, be careful and be conscious of fire danger. One way to stay aware of that is simply to remember that anyone who starts a wildfire can be billed for the cost of battling it as well as any damage that results.

Enjoy the Fourth and celebrate America. Take in some of the region’s parties, parades and community events. Just leave the fireworks to the professionals, and remember that the risk of wildfire is always with us and all around.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend.

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