Land of the free, home of the brave

Like the grand finale fireworks at the end of the night, the Fourth of July stands out as a high point of the summer.

Communities celebrate with parades and concerts, people eat all-American foods such as hot dogs and corn-on-the-cob and nighttime pyrotechnics end the holiday with a bang.

But rather than set aside one day to recognize our independence, Johnson County and the rest of central Indiana boasts two full weekends of games, music, food and fun.

Figuring out which activities are best for you and your family takes some planning, so the Daily Journal has picked out the best options for any kind of interest.

Whether you want to sit back and relax to a traditional patriotic concert, sample some of the county’s best wine and beer producers, or recognize the men and women who protect our freedom, there’s something for everyone.

Catch a concert put on by your neighbors

Greenwood Community Band

When: 7 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 26

Where: Greenwood Amphitheater, 100 Surina Square

What: Leading into the annual Greenwood Freedom Festival, the county’s oldest community band will showcase a set of patriotic marches, Broadway showtunes and other crowd favorites. The group is made up entirely of volunteer musicians, and now boasts a roster of more than 80 people.

Welcome America’s newest citizens

Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site Naturalization Ceremony

When: 10 to 11 a.m. July 2

Where: Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, 1230 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis

What: What better way to recognize the American way of life than to celebrate the country’s next round of naturalized citizens. Judge Sarah Evans Barker will preside over the ceremony as dozens of people take the naturalization oath. The event is free, and often brings out more than 300 people.

See the county’s most exciting emerging bands.

Freedom Jam

When: 2 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 27

Where: Craig Park

What: Greenwood Freedom Festival organizers are looking for the county’s best musicians in a new band competition, with the winner having the chance to perform in the prime slot before the fireworks begin. Acts will perform a 15-minute set, and judged for their vocal ability, musicianship, stage presence, showmanship and originality. The acoustic division starts at 2 p.m., while the band portion starts at 5. The winner’s concert starts at 8:30 p.m. To register, go to

Pay tribute to the people who keep us safe

Honor Our Heroes

When: 6 p.m. to after dusk Sunday, June 28

Where: Grace Assembly of God, 6822 N. US 31, New Whiteland

What: The New Whiteland-area church will again host its annual Honor Our Heroes event, aimed at recognizing those who serve the community and country. Active military members and veterans, police and firefighters are encouraged to come to the event in uniform. Games, food and military displays will be featured, as will a performance by Christian recording artist Hawk Nelson. Gov. Mike Pence and Gen. Stewart Goodwin, executive director of the Indiana War Memorials, will be special guests. Then a massive fireworks display will top the entire event off.

Dance the night away.

Tastes Like Chicken

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 27

Where: Greenwood Amphitheater

What: Tastes Like Chicken brings the party to the stage as the main act at this year’s Greenwood Freedom Festival. The band is a regular feature at the festival and during Greenwood’s summer concert season, and is one of the most popular cover bands in central Indiana. Expect plenty of dancing and singing along to rock, country, R&B and disco.

Stuff yourself with great live music

Fountain Square Music Festival

When: 6:30 to 11 p.m. July 1 to 3; 11:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. July 4

Where: Fountain Square

What: More than 30 bands and four nights of music are on tap for this relatively new event. Free nightly shows will be offered in the community plaza from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with higher-profile shows for $10 in venues such as the Hi-Fi, Joyful Noise Studios and the White Rabbit the first three nights. Then on July 4, an all-ages outdoor festival boasts music all day long, featuring acts such as Apache Relay and Lera Lynn.

Show off your speed

Fastest Kid in Town

When: 6:30 p.m. July 3

Where: Indiana Masonic Home, 690 State St., Franklin

What: On your mark, get set, go. As an appetizer to Franklin’s main Fourth of July celebration, kids from all over town will get together to prove who is the fastest. The annual event has a become a tradition while families wait for the Norman P. Blankenship Jr. Fireworks Celebration at dusk. Prizes are given out based on age groups, and people can sign up their kids the day of the race.

Enjoy an old-time parade

Peoga Parade

When: 2 p.m. July 4

Where: County Road 250W and Peoga Road.

What: Peoga may be a small community nestled on the Johnson-Brown county line. But its Fourth of July celebration has become a big-time event. The annual parade has been going for nearly 50 years. Residents still gather to collect candy tossed from floats, kids decorate their bikes in patriotic designs and carefully detailed antique cars honk their horns along the route.

Celebrate summer fun

Greenwood Freedom Festival parade

When: Noon Saturday, June 27

Where: Parade starts and ends at Greenwood Community Middle School

What: The parade has always been a centerpiece of the annual Freedom Festival, but organizers have tweaked this year’s version. Floats, marching bands and other participants will start at noon, and the route will be reversed to create a better viewing experience. The focus of the parade will be “Summer Fun,” with emphasis on the newly opened Freedom Springs water park.

Reveal your country side.

Blue River Band

When: 7:15 to 9:45 p.m. July 3

Where: Indiana Masonic Home

What: This high-energy country music act will headline this year’s Franklin Firecracker Festival, promising to bring their Hoosier upbringing to the forefront of their shows. Songs such as “Double Wide” and “Indiana Town” recall simple country living in the Midwest, while tunes such as “Wish You Were Beer” show off their sly sense of humor.

Unwind with a craft beer.

Microbrew and Wine Tent

When: 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 27

Where: Greenwood Amphitheater

What: On a hot summer day of parades, kids games and shopping, sometimes nothing tastes better than to relax with a glass of wine or a draft beer. Organizers of the Greenwood Freedom Festival have brought back a special area for grown-ups, where Oaken Barrel, MashCraft and Planetary breweries will serve their creations. Mallow Run Winery will also be pouring from its extensive collection of wine.

Stake your claim before the fireworks start.

Party on the Plaza

When: 7 to 11 p.m. July 4

Where: City Market, 222 E. Market St., Indianapolis

What: For fireworks lovers, the annual Freedom Blast fireworks display is one of the most visually stunning shows in the state. But finding a good seat to watch can be tricky. That’s what has motivated downtown’s City Market to open up its remodeled plaza for a special July 4 celebration. People are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets to spread out, and vendors will be selling beer, brats and other food. Tickets are $6 per person or $10 for two people. Seniors get in for $4 and children 12 and under are free.

End the night with a bang.

Regional fireworks displays

Fanfare and Fireworks, 9:45 p.m. Friday, June 26, Johnson County Park amphitheater; a concert by the Crossroads Brass Band and Indiana Wind Symphony followed by fireworks; tickets are $5 for adults, free for children 17 and under.

Greenwood Freedom Festival, 10:15 p.m. Saturday, June 27, Craig Park

Honor Our Heroes, dusk, Sunday, June 28, Grace Assembly of God

Franklin Firecracker Festival, 10:10 p.m. July 3, Indiana Masonic Home

Edinburgh, 9:45 p.m. July 4, Edinburgh Sports Complex

Downtown Freedom Blast, 9:30 p.m., July 4, downtown Indianapolis

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.