<p class="BodyText-BodyText_Cap_RR">Prepping for the Monte Rio fireworks extravaganza, Mary Baker can't help but remember a flaming mishap from yesteryear.
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_RR">"One year, we had a Viking ship that caught on fire," said Baker, Monte Rio Chamber of Commerce president. "I think because someone was probably lighting up a joint."
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_RR">Welcome to the annual Independence Day water parade and hootenany in Monte Rio, where everything operates "on river time." Where the tradition goes back more than a century to the days of the seven-story Monte Rio Hotel. Where the fireworks are on July 5th because they're half-price. And where "we hope we'll have enough water in this drought to float the boats this year," said Baker.
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_RR">Around 2,000 people flock to the Monte Rio beach every year for two days of kids' activities and contests as part of the Big Rocky Games today and Saturday. The water parade takes shape around dusk Saturday evening, along with a light show projected on a curtain of water streaming from the Monte Rio bridge, and then fireworks at dark.
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_RR">In addition to Monte Rio's festivities (as well as Sebastopol, Windsor and Guerneville Independence Day celebrations on July 3rd), here's the best of the remaining Fourth of July hoedowns in Sonoma County:
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_RR"><strong>Best Parade Guidelines:</strong> Sonoma's Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration is always loaded with eye-candy. But keep this in mind — according to parade rules: "Political entries are allowed, but keep the message positive. 'Vote for Joe' is OK. 'Joe sucks' is not OK. Remember, this event is rated G and entries should be suitable for viewing by all ages."
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_RR">The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. Friday and bands like Never Fear and Tudo Bem drop in through the day. But make sure to heed the rules: No setting up chairs in the plaza before 6 a.m. Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma. sonomacommunitycenter.org.
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_Tagline_Cutoff"><strong>Best Excuse to Dance:</strong> The costume-changing, retro-obsessed Wonderbread 5 kickstarts the Red White and Boom Friday with wigs and golden oldies before fireworks steal the show at exactly 9:37 p.m. Get there early if you want to make an afternooon of it with bands Kingsborough at 4 p.m. and Court 'n' Disaster at 5 p.m.
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_RR">$8 admission adults, $6 veterans, $4 kids 5-11 and free for kids 4 and under. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. <a href="http://srboom.com">srboom.com</a>.
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_Tagline_Cutoff"><strong>Best Southern Rock Band:</strong> Who knew Petaluma would be the Outlaw Country fireworks hot-spot this year? Paulies Garage dons cowboy hats and boots for songs like "Buckwild," starting at 5 p.m. Friday at the Sonoma-Marin Rairgrounds. Look for the Fundemonium play area for kids and adults. Fireworks around 9:30 Friday night. $5 admission. 175 Fairgrounds Dr., Petaluma. <a href="http://visitpetaluma.com">visitpetaluma.com</a>.
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_Tagline_Cutoff"><strong>Best High School Football Field Viewing:</strong> Every year, everyone in Healdsburg flocks to the Healdsburg High School football field (1024 Prince Ave. 953-7242) for dusk fireworks that last over a half-hour. It's a classic small-town scene. Tip: The best pre-show music is by The Easy Leaves (local bluegrass duo that played Outside Lands last year) at Spoonbar from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 219 Healdsburg Ave.
<p class="BodyText-BodyText_Tagline_Cutoff"><strong>Best Reflection:</strong> Saturday's annual "Fireworks Over Bodega Bay" display is one of the best for oohs and aahs over the water. The most choice viewing spot is at Westside Park on Westshore Road, but really anywhere you can see the bay is a good vantage point. Pyrotechnics go off around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. <a href="http://www.visitbodegabayca.com">www.visitbodegabayca.com</a>.