Gilroy Gardens Theme Park offers free admission to active, retired military heroes from July 1 to 4

The Morgan Hill annual Fourth of July Parade takes place at 10 a.m. through downtown. (See calendar for details of all the July 4 events). Morgan Hill Life file photo

By Marty Cheek

Morgan Hill’s Freedom Fest activities will celebrate in many ways the independence of America.

The fun starts 6 p.m. the afternoon of Sunday, July 3, as the Patriotic Sing is held at the Morgan Hill Downtown Amphitheater. Children will perform various songs celebrating the ideals of America.

Military members recently returned from deployment during the past year will get special attention as guests of honor at the annual children’s concert.

“We are thrilled to welcome them all back,” said Matthew Stein, the president of the nonprofit Freedom Fest board. “We’re expecting upwards of 70 plus children who will lift up their voices led by Karen Crane.”

The Patriotic Sing and the Fourth of July Parade will be broadcast on Facebook and YouTube. Links are on the home page of Freedom Fest.

The music continues through the night in downtown with the Family Music Fest. The party starts at 7 p.m. with a Honor Color Guard of Veterans of Foreign Wars 6309, followed by up-and-coming country music singer Alison Turner performing the National Anthem. The bands scheduled to perform on three stages are The Recurrents (classic rock, Latin rock, Motown, and southern rock), DJ E-Poki (dance music), and Country Bears (country and western).

New this year will be a Kids Zone to entertain youngsters with bounce houses, chalk art, and family-friendly games. Wine, beer and beverages sales will be cashless so credit cards will be required for purchase.

“We think the lines will go a whole lot faster,” Stein said. “Plastic is more secure and a safer environment to help make it a whole lot more festive. Beer and wine sales help support our events.

The Fourth of July early morning starts off in downtown streets with the annual Freedom Run. The popular classic car cruise starts at 9 a.m. This is followed by the Independence Day Parade featuring 93 units including eight marching bands, eight equestrian groups, and 27 floats. There will be entertainers inserted throughout the parade.

One new aspect in this year’s parade is Cal Fire, the Sheriff Department, County Park rangers, Magical Bridge, and other groups will hand out stickers, candy and fun items to kids.

“The whole point is because this is a community event, there should be interaction,” Stein said. “It’s about having that connection, and so we’re thrilled to have people get out of the truck and shake hands and be part of the community.”

For those who stay until the end of the parade, the last float will be distributing 15,000 Popsicles to “kids and kids at heart,” Stein said. For safety reasons, he advises: “Don’t run into the street, they’ll come to you.”

Morgan Hill Life file photos
Spectators enjoy the firework show.

Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center opens at 3 p.m. July 4 with the Fireworks on the Green event featuring live music and games, a pie-eating contest and other family-friendly activities. Parking can be purchased online in advance at for $10 with a dedicated lane.

The sky will blaze with the sparkles of fireworks as the night gets dark about 9:30 p.m., bringing an end to the celebration of America’s birthday.

“We are excited to have one of the largest fireworks shows in Northern California,” Stein said.  “On a personal level, it’s humbling to bring the community an event that is fun and entertaining, but also has a very real impact for kids. It teaches them about responsibility and what it means to be part of this country.”

The celebration of America’s birthday is a four-day event at Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park starting Friday July 1. The Hecker Pass venue encourages guests to celebrate Independence Day and honor our nation’s military heroes.

Admission is free July 1-4 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for all active and retired military with ID. Guests will find special decorations throughout the park to show appreciation for all who have served.

Morgan Hill Police Chief Shane Palsgrove encourages residents to enjoy the celebration of America’s freedoms but warned even the “safe and sane” fireworks purchased in other communities are illegal in Morgan Hill.

Possession of illegal fireworks is a misdemeanor and can carry fines up to $5,000 and one year in jail, he said.

“Morgan Hill Police and Fire have adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for illegal fireworks and will be actively patrolling for violations,” he said. “The use and or possession of illegal fireworks will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”