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July 4th DIY ideas

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Throwing a Fourth of July celebration?

Your fellow Americans have some tips, ranging from home-grown parades and potlucks to Elvis impersonators, dunk tanks and old-school amusements.

This week, a handful of Sacramentans offered ideas on how to have fun and maybe even save a little cash this holiday with celebrations as diverse as the country.

Organizing your own Independence Day parade topped the list of suggestions. Processions can be as small and impromptu as a clanging pots-and-pans parade of kids and adults moseying around the block or as big as a community parade with marching bands and dozens of floats closing down streets.

Jeff Dominguez, who owns Exit Realty West in Midtown, is the go-to guy for advice on how to start your own neighborhood parade. He started the July 4th Pocket Parade 15 years ago to recreate festivities he grew up with along the Sacramento Delta for his family, friends and neighbors.

“I knew the community would embrace a homespun event like that,” he said.

Dominguez relied on experience organizing a Santa parade around the Capitol in the late 1980s and early 1990s for Weinstock’s department store, where he worked in advertising. His biggest tip is to recruit six smart, capable friends and neighbors who share the vision and can help organize the parade and recruit parade entries.

To get the parade off the ground, be persistent — even if you need to get city special event permits to close a street or support from the Sacramento Police or Fire departments. The first Pocket Parade quickly swelled to 74 entries as word got out.

For big parades, use parade marshals with walkie-talkies or cell phones after every five entries to maintain the pace.

“The idea in its earliest stage when it was still in my head was that it was probably going to be around the block in front of my house,” he said. “The street was just lined with people on both sides for the whole parade route. It was something else.”

In Sacramento’s early days — from 1849 to 1900 — people celebrated the Fourth with lots of parades, fireworks, picnics and street festivals. They picnicked at Plaza Park (now Cesar Chavez Plaza) across from City Hall, East Park (now McKinley Park) and McClatchy Park, called Joyland at the turn of 20th Century when an amusement park operated there.

For free or low-cost entertainment, people held boat races on the Sacramento River, pie-eating contests, bicycle and three-legged races and balloon tosses. They also played bocce ball and musical instruments, sang and held literary readings of new and popular works, said Pat Johnson, a senior archivist with the Center for Sacramento History.

“They didn’t have TV, they didn’t have radio in the 19th century,” she said. “So there would be people doing traditional literary exercises, reading aloud.”

Hosting a barbecue, potluck or block party for friends, family and neighbors is a popular, low-cost way to celebrate. Special events planner Dawn Dillman suggested using a theme, such as, “What is Americana?” and asking guests to bring music, poetry and other artsy contributions that reflect the day, the country and its people — much like earlier celebrations.

Two years ago at a family barbecue she helped organize, one person recited Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” Chinese-American friends explained the history of how the Chinese invented fireworks, and then people rocked out to the Grateful Dead and Lynyrd Skynyrd, said Dillman, who owns Sacramento Event Planners and specializes in eco-friendly, cost-conscious celebrations, weddings and corporate events.

They can also bring historic cocktail recipes celebrating the country’s regions, such as mint juleps from the south. For a 21st-century twist, she recommended asking people to bring food or drink celebrating their ethnic heritage and their families’ Fourth of July celebrations, along with note cards about the dishes, explaining why they were brought.

“In my mind, part of the thing that makes our country so amazing is that we have so much diversity and we have so much culture,” she said. “You can really learn a lot about people by what they see as comfort food.”

Paradise Party Rentals has the solution to help revelers cool off on Monday, the official national holiday: dunk tank rentals delivered to your home or business. Tanks cost $145 for eight hours. You supply the people who get dunked.

Dunk tanks are very popular for the summer holiday, so unfortunately, the company’s two tanks are spoken for Saturday and Sunday.

“Like anything water-related, it’s sold out weeks and months in advance for the Fourth of July,” said owner Justin Skiba.

For something a little different, invite Elvis to your party. Working through AAA Awesome Impersonations for all Occasions, singer/impersonator Kenny Reeves can channel Elvis, American country stars and even Neil Diamond. He can also sing favorites from the 1950s and 1960s era of American rock.

The 45-year-old has been singing since he was a teen and started impersonating Elvis in 1990. His red, white and blue website sports a Time Magazine photo from 2002, when he competed in the “Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest” in Memphis. He performs at fairgrounds, parties and bars and can be seen twice a year at the Doubletree Hotel in Sacramento at shows marking the legend’s birth and death, said his friend and manager, Patti McCloskey.

He already has one gig at Milestone Saloon in Cool on Sunday. But he’s still got some slots available that day and throughout the weekend, at $140 for a half hour, $175 for an hour and $250 for a three- or four-hour party. His big July 4th hit: Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

“The crowd — every time he does that, they just love that,” McCloskey said.

Parade photos provided by Jeff Dominguez. Kenny Reeves photo provided by AAA Awesome Impersonations for all Occasions. Photos of Dawn Dillman and kids at July 4th celebration provided by Dillman. Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter covering business and development for The Sacramento Press.

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