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In Chicago, better to call it 'Independence Day' than 'Fourth of July'; the city follows its own idiosyncratic schedule and traditionally holds its big fireworks display on the third. This is supposedly to allow patriotic revelers from the suburbs to stay downtown late, secure in the knowledge that they won't have to work the next day. But it might just as well be attributable to the Chicago's penchant for bucking the trend--we'll celebrate on the third, and no ketchup on that hot dog, thank you.
The weekend of free holiday festivities officially kicks off on Friday, when the 85th Army Band strikes up in the Petrillo Music Shell (Columbus and Jackson) at 7:30 PM. Stragglers from the nearby Taste of Chicago festival will have time to claim their spots before the fireworks begin at 9 PM. Space on the prime viewing spots may be hard to come by, if a recent edict prohibiting claim staking before 10:45 AM is any indication--but the fireworks are launched from a barge off Montrose Harbor, and should be visible anywhere along city's lakefront.
Saturday provides a handy downtown do-over for those who missed Friday's celebration, thanks to an unprecedented switch by the Grant Park Orchestra, which will hold its Independence Day concert on Independence Day for the first time ever (it normally precedes the fireworks on the third). The concert, in Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion, starts at 1:30 PM and lasts for an hour. At 9 PM, Navy Pier's Fourth of July Fireworks, an expanded version of the Pier's usual Wednesday and Friday summer fireworks, will light up the lakefront.