Bay Area celebrates July 4th holiday

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- Bay Area residents decked out in red, white and blue waved flags, cheered during parades and sang patriotic songs at Independence Day events across the region.

A kaliedoscope of colors cascaded from the night sky to entertain the large crowd that gathered along San Francisco's waterfront for its annual 4th of July fireworks show.

Fog is often a factor during San Francisco summers and on Tuesday night, it did partialy obscure the explosions of color. But the show was still a crowd pleaser.

Earlier in the day at Aquatic Park, people celebrated America's birthday with old glory on display in various forms.

"We're always spending 4th of July together," said Kenyetta Bausmen, who was visiting the Bay Area from Los Lunas, New Mexico. "Normally, we're at home in Los Lunas watching it from our backyard but this seemed like the place to be today."

For one family from San Ramon, pitching a tent at Aquatic Park is a way to celebrate the country they love. The family's mother is from Mexico and her husband hails from Afghanstan. The couple's two sons are American born.

"We want them to see the traditions (and)the independence of the United States," says Marla Harris, referring to her sons.

Security was on the minds of some. One woman said she's always vigilant in large crowds.

"I always stay totally on the outskirts so if I see anything aggressive," said Rhianna Smith of San Francisco, adding that she can escape faster if there is trouble.

"We've seen police officers walking around on their game and seem to be watching everything so we feel pretty safe," Bausmen said.

People say this is a day to remember and celebrate what this country has to offer.

"We are able to be free in our United States while our army and soldiers are fighting for our freedom," says Joey Quinones, who was visiting from Chicago.

Authorities said 10,000 effects were fired from two barges; one from Aquatic Park and the other located off of Pier 39. The fireworks were synchronized to patriotic music.

KTVU chief meteorologist Bill Martin said the weather would cooperate although participants could expect clouds and chilly weather during the night time event. 

"I don't think we've ever been to a big city to see the fireworks (since) we're from West Virginia," said Ashley Bainbridge, who is visiting the area from West Virginia. "We thought we'd come and see them from over the water."

In Danville Tuesday morning, up to 40,000 people turned out watch the city's annual Independence Day parade, which featured firefighters, police and several American flags.

"We cherish the community and our country," one parade-goer said. "It's family time."

A free towing service was available Tuesday evening in the Bay Area to get people home safely if they have been drinking, AAA officials said.

AAA's Tipsy Tow service begins at 6 p.m. and is available to anyone, regardless of membership. The service ends at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

"AAA has made incredible strides in improving America's traffic safety in our hundred-year history of advocacy, but that work doesn't stop," AAA Northern California spokesman Mike Blasky said in a statement. "AAA wants everyone to be responsible this Fourth of July, but if you're too impaired to drive, we're happy to provide a ride home," he said.

AAA estimates that when a first time driver gets a DUI it can cost them more than $10,000 in fines, penalties, legal fees and higher insurance premiums.

Drivers, passengers, bartenders, restaurant managers and party hosts interested should call (800) 222-4357 and say they need a Tipsy Tow to arrange for a tow. They should also provide the driver's name, home address, phone number and vehicle or driver location.

A AAA tow truck driver will provide a free tow of up to 10 miles for a vehicle and a driver and one passenger, according to AAA officials.

AAA does not take reservations for the service and the service does not include roadside assistance.

In Southern California, hundreds of people lined the streets under bright sunshine Tuesday for seaside Santa Monica's annual celebration, which featured bands and classic cars. 

California's love affair with the automobile was also front and center at South Pasadena's parade, which had the theme "Freedom on the Road. Celebrating Route 66."

The parades were among dozens up and down California during the July 4 holiday.  

Farther north, young and old lined up for an annual parade in downtown Danville, a picturesque town in the San Francisco Bay Area. The event draws about 40,000 people a year. 

"I love it. I love the flag," longtime parade watcher Alma Lantzy said from her front-row seat. 

"It's beautiful for me. I am from a different country, so Fourth of July is outstanding," said Lantzy, who is from Mexico. 

Korean War veteran Herb Constant also was at the parade, to remind people about those who fought for their freedom. 

"The veterans in previous wars kept things free, so that we have free speech and free religion and everything else in the United States," he told the news station.  

A 15-foot-tall Uncle Sam marched in the annual east Sacramento parade. Some attendees of the popular "Freedom Fest" in Morgan Hill started saving seats in mid-May, blocking off chairs with tape or chaining them together.

The small town is 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of San Francisco and holds one of the state's oldest celebrations. 

After the sun goes down, the parties will continue with fireworks displays. Among the Los Angeles area's largest will be the annual fanfare at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. 

By KTVU reporter Amber Lee. Bay City News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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