Some Dakota County communities go all out for Independence Day. This year's celebrations include unique events such as a high-wire act, a craft beer festival and a unicycle 5K.
Lakeville's Panorama-Of-Progress (July 3-13) hosts its first "Brew Battle" this year. There are 30 competing breweries, including both Twin Cities outfits such as Indeed and Lucid, and brewers further afield, like Tallgrass, of Kansas, and Traveler Beer Company, of Burlington, Vermont.
Attendees will vote on their favorite beers, and the top three will be sold at Lakeville Liquors' Heritage store, one of that city's municipal liquor outlets.
"Craft beers have gotten to be such a large segment of the market," said Brenda Visnovec, the city's Liquor Operations Director. People are starting to collect them, she said, as they "are learning that beers can lay down and be stored for awhile."
Brew Battle proceeds benefit the Lakeville Heritage Center, the local arts center, and Pan-O-Prog.
Lakeville's summer festival draws around 80,000. It includes a street market, a kids' fun fair, a performance by the Dakota Valley Symphony Summer Pops Orchestra, a cruise night, and many other activities.
There are competitions for horseshoes, euchre, cribbage and bowling, as well as evening entertainment by performers such as Junk FM and GB Leighton.
New this year is Art on the Lawn (July 12) at the Lakeville Area Arts Center, with art activities, an art sale of work made at the center and a stage with music, children's theater and dance performances.
On the 4th, the Castaways perform at Lakeville North High School, before the fireworks.
"It's up on a hill where they shoot them off," said Pan-O-Prog President Diana Neameyer, "so the viewing is very good."
New to Eagan's Funfest this year, the Twin Cities Unicycle Club holds its national race, the Criterium 5K, on July 4 right outside the festival grounds.
The 48th annual Funfest also includes a carnival (July 2-4), a Texas Hold'em tournament; a blood drive (July 3-4); and entertainment by the Dweebs, a high-energy party band, who return for their 8th year (July 3).
On July 4, there's a car show, parade, bingo tournament, and ice cream eating competition. The Jason Huneke Comedy Juggling Show takes the stage in the afternoon, and in the evening, the Rock Godz, a metal and rock cover band, perform before and after the fireworks.
According to organizer Cory Hilden, another new addition this year is a "cool space respite," a big tent with cooling fans and water misters.
"Then, if we end up with 105-degree heat, we'll have a place to get out of it for a moment," she said.
Apple Valley's festival begins June 27 at Johnny Cake Park East, with a car, truck and motorcycle show and music by the Buzztones, a local band that plays late 50s and 60s covers. On June 29, Wreckless performs oldies, rock, and country at the park.
A kids fishing derby and carnival take place at Lac Lavon Park on July 2.
On July 3, Michael Duff, who used to travel and perform with the Fabulous Wallendas, takes to the high wire and performs 50 feet above the Johnny Cake Ridge Park softball fields.
That night's Family Fun Night includes a kids costume parade, food vendors, kids music DJ, face painting, crazy hair, petting zoo and pony rides.
July 4 events include a Freedom Days fun run, parade, a pre-fireworks party with a DJ and fireworks at Johnny Cake Park East.
Dakota County residents can also view fireworks set off at Mendakota Country Club in Mendota Heights and in Hastings at the Hastings Country Club.
Most fireworks displays begin at dusk.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.