Freedom to Choose

Take your pick of July 4 kicks.

The Smithereens perform at Lock 3's 4th of July fete.
The Smithereens perform at Lock 3's 4th of July fete.
FRI 7/4

Don't need an Independence Day headache jockeying for a good seat at Cleveland's fireworks celebration? Here are some alternative places to party on Uncle Sam's birthday.

Akron's Fourth of July Festival at Lock 3 Park. There's plenty of food and lots of live music at this three-day celebration. The Smithereens' (pictured) power pop touches down at 9 p.m. Thursday. On Friday, the Zapp Band takes the stage at 4, followed by the '80s dance-floor parkers Midnight Star; the night ends with fireworks at 9:45. Saturday features a 4:30 show by 10,000 Maniacs and a 9:30 finale with John Kay & Steppenwolf. Tickets at the gate are $6 on Thursday and Friday, and $8 on Saturday. Lock 3 Park is on Main Street, between Bowery and State streets in Akron; call 330-535-3178.

Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration at Lakeside Landing in Lorain. This Port Authority-sponsored blast features fireworks at dusk. Bring a blanket or lawn chair to sit and watch the light show off the Lake Erie shoreline. It's free. Lakeside Landing is off East Erie Avenue on Lakeside Avenue; call 440-204-2269.

Fourth of July Fireworks Cruise on the Nautica Queen. Sail under historic bridges and take in a view of Cleveland's skyline -- and thumb your nose at the crowds crammed into Voinovich Park, as they wait for the first fireworks to flare. Cruise time is 7:30 p.m., and it costs $75 per person. Call 216-696-8888 for more information.

The parking lot at the Harp. It's one of the best views of the downtown fireworks, without the crowds. The bar also hosts a 7 p.m. shindig with food, drinks, and live music by Rosavelt, the Barflies, and Anne E. DeChant. The Harp is at 4408 Detroit Avenue; call 216-939-0200.

Firecracker Classic Car Show at the Lighthouse Bar & Grille in Geneva. The Lighthouse parking lot is the place to be for classic and antique car buffs. Dozens of cars line up for your gawking pleasure, followed by a fireworks show at dusk. It starts at 7 p.m., and admission is $5. The Lighthouse Bar & Grille is at 1752 South Broadway Avenue; call 440-466-4040 for more information. -- Cris Glaser

Great Lakes gets medieval on our asses.

7/4 - 8/10

The Great Lakes Medieval Faire is like a Dark Ages Disney World without all the plagues and poor hygiene. "The whole village is a medieval theme park," says marketing director Cindy Hotchkiss. It's packed full of jesters and jousters, village drunks and naughty wenches, carnival rides and retailers -- and 12 stages of live entertainment, featuring comedy acts, juggling, human battle-chess, music, and even full-contact jousting. All this and six-course meals, eaten without utensils! It takes place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and subsequent Saturdays and Sundays through August 10 at the Great Lakes Medieval Faire grounds (State Route 534 in Geneva). Admission is $5.05 to $14.95; call 888-633-4382. -- Keith Gribbins

Five-Card Suds

7/3 - 7/9

Poker is the light, clean-tasting beer with a four-card hand on the label and a fifth card underneath the cap. The Rochester, New York brew, a newcomer to Cleveland bars, has already spawned impromptu games of "Loser Buys," in which the luck of the draw determines which drinking buddy funds the next round. More than a dozen area bars -- including Alimony Jack's (5531 Pearl Road in Parma; 440-884-0666), RJ's Bar & Grill (922 East 222nd Street in Euclid; 216-289-2560), Fergie's Pub (5587 Ridge Road in Parma; 440-886-6040), and Wings Sports Bar and Grill (14516 Broadway in Maple Heights; 216-587-5495) -- are now dealing Poker. -- Cris Glaser

Get Down With GOP

FRI 7/4

When 125 radio stations broadcast syndicated talker Glenn Beck today, listeners will be tuned to the sounds of Bay Village's Bay Days, where Beck will originate his 9 a.m. to noon show. The Philadelphia-based conservative (heard locally on WTAM-AM 1100) chose the West Side suburb because "It's about Norman Rockwell's America, where there are family values, where families still sit down to dinner together," says Ray Davis, WTAM's program director. While Beck yaks, festivalgoers will compete in sack races and egg tosses. Cahoon Park is located at the corner of Dover Center and Wolf roads in Bay Village. Admission is free; for more information, call 440-871-2200. -- Cris Glaser