The recession has forced the cancellation of fireworks displays in a number of places around the country like Blue Springs, Mo., and Mesa, Ariz. But many of the biggest and best-known displays will be nearly as spectacular as ever.
"Some larger displays have been trimmed a bit but nothing that will have a major impact on the industry," said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.
The timing of the holiday, on a Saturday, has actually "helped the fireworks industry" in some places, said M. Philip Butler, spokesman for Grucci, the famous fireworks company. "Whenever it's a Saturday Fourth of July, we will have as much as a 50 percent increase in demand."
Grucci shows this year include displays in Dallas, Omaha, Neb., Hawaii and Portland, Maine, along with Station Casinos in Las Vegas and the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
Butler said "the most popular shell is still the happy face." And fireworks choreographed to music — often patriotic medleys, sometimes performed live — also remain popular, usually with radio simulcasts.
Patterns and shapes like stars, fish, hearts and cubes are becoming more prevalent, Heckman said. "The real challenge is making letters appear in the sky," she said. "It's really difficult to get an aerial shell to break so it looks like an M and not a W."
Grucci's fireworks at the Hickam Air Force Base and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii are scheduled to send up the letters "USA" while the national anthem is played.
Heckman issues an annual list of "must-see" fireworks shows, but she says your local display may be just as much fun. "The low-level show, which you're not going to see in a big city skyline, can be prettier," she said. "And a lot of the fun of it is just the community involvement, hanging out and tailgating and waiting for that first burst."
What Heckman calls "star-spangled spectaculars" will take place as usual in New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington and Boston, which is known for its famous Fourth of July Boston Pops concert, this year featuring Neil Diamond. But here are a dozen more fireworks displays recommended by the American Pyrotechnics Association, including a few scheduled for July 3:
Addison, Texas: This Dallas suburb has a population of just 14,000 but tens of thousands of spectators turn out for the Kaboom Town fireworks held here each July 3.
Branson, Mo.: Another July 3 event, this display at Branson Landing in Historic Downtown Branson on Lake Taneycomo is surrounded by fountains and choreographed to an outdoor concert.
Chicago: Chicago's annual July 3 event on the lakefront is considered "one of the boldest, brightest, and biggest patriotic fireworks spectaculars of its kind," Heckman said. The city's Taste of Chicago event, June 26-July 5, is at the same location. Be prepared for massive crowds.
Columbus, Ohio: The event known as "Red, White & BOOM!" is held July 3 near Veteran's Memorial in downtown Columbus. It's one of the largest in the Midwest after Chicago's, with a parade and 400,000 folks attending.
Mount Rushmore, S.D.: This national monument hosts a glorious pyrotechnic display on July 3 that attracts 20,000 to 30,000 people. Officials say if you're planning to attend, be prepared to park anywhere from 1 to 3 miles away, and don't be in a hurry to leave as it can take an hour or more to clear roadways after the show.
Stone Mountain, Ga.: This park near Atlanta will host big fireworks shows three nights in a row, July 3, 4 and 5. The display will be combined with a laser light show at the base of the mountain. You have to pay to park your car but the shows are free.
Charlotte, N.C.: Five Charlotte radio stations will host viewing parties and will simulcast music for Uptown Charlotte's "Red, White and Boom" display July Fourth, a 20-minute computer-designed "pyro-musical."
Falmouth, Mass.: July Fourth fireworks on Cape Cod will honor Falmouth native Katharine Lee Bates, who was born 150 years ago and wrote the words to "America the Beautiful." The song will lead off a musical accompaniment to the pyrotechnics. Twitter updates on the fireworks are planned.
Las Vegas: This one-of-a-kind city is the location for a one-of-a-kind Fourth of July celebration, with integrated, simultaneous fireworks at nine Station Casinos, including Green Valley Ranch, Red Rock Resort, and Aliante Station, with a separate fireworks show at Mandalay Bay.
Nashville: This is the 25th year for Nashville's "Let Freedom Sing" July Fourth fireworks on the riverfront, choreographed to live music by the Nashville Symphony. Pyrotechnics will include shells breaking 800 feet above the river, low-level fireworks from 10 spots along the shore, and fireworks that erupt from the surface of the Cumberland River.
Oahu, Hawaii: Fireworks will light up the skies July Fourth with a tribute to the U.S. military at Hickam Air Force Base and Pearl Harbor.
South Lake Tahoe, Nev.: The "Lights on the Lake" July Fourth fireworks event can be seen from the beach, from boats on the lake and from the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.