One summer long ago, Thomas Jefferson toiled for weeks to draft a document that would become the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty: The Declaration of Independence.
Signed July 4, 1776, it both summarized the convictions of the American people and made the case for breaking ties with their mother country, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation.
Two-hundred and thirty-four years later, Americans rate the Declaration the most influential document in American history, according to The National Archives and Record Administration. Give the document, and the meaning behind its exalted words, their due this weekend with one of these East Valley Fourth of July celebrations.
Chandler's Fourth of July 7UP Fireworks Spectacular
What: Live music, a kiddie carnival, a bike parade, a 35-foot water slide, a rock-climbing wall, food and drink vendors, and fireworks
When: 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Tumbleweed Park, 2250 S. McQueen Road, Chandler
Cost: Free admission; $5 to park
Information: (480) 782-2735 or www.chandleraz.gov
Gilbert's Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration
What: Family activities and food and beverage concessions precede a fireworks show at sundown
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Big League Dreams, 4536 E. Elliot Road
Cost: Free admission; $5 to park
Gilbert's 90th Birthday Bash
What: Ring in the town's birthday with games, family activities, races and free birthday cake and ice cream (while supplies last)
When: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday
Where: Gilbert Rodeo Park, 1777 S. Val Vista Drive
Cost: Free, but donations of nonperishable food items are requested for United Food Bank.
Gilbert's Birthday Celebration
What: Residents who turn 90 in 2010 will be recognized.
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Town Hall, 50 E. Civic Center Drive
Information: (480) 503-6767
Fourth of July Fireworks Show and Independence Day Celebration
What: Activities for kids, such as inflatables, water slides, hay rides and pony rides, along with food, craft and info vendors; fireworks.
When: 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Where: Schnepf Farms, 24810 Rittenhouse Road.
Cost: $10 per car, $10 ride wristbands, $1-$4 per ride
Southwest Ambulance Arizona Celebration of Freedom
What: Mesa's new downtown festival features live on-stage entertainment and music, replicas of national monuments and famous historical character re-enactors, a Fallen Soldier Memorial, a county fair-style fun zone, a water playground, arts and crafts booths, beer gardens, photos with the Phoenix Pinup Dolls, and fireworks.
When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: along Main Street in downtown Mesa
Cost: Free admission and parking
Information: (480) 644-2069 or www.azcelebrationoffreedom.org
CBS 5 July Fourth Tempe Town Lake Festival
What: Fireworks over Tempe Town Lake are preceeded by a full evening of live music, an all-ages splash playground and a family zone with an inflatable village, face painting, rides and kids' entertainment.
When: Gates open at 4 p.m. Sunday for first-come, first-serve lawn seating.
Where: Tempe Beach Park, Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway.
Cost: $6 in advance at Fry's Food Stores; $8 at the gate; free for children 12 and younger and active military personnel with a current military ID.
Information: (480) 350-5189 or http://tempe4th.com