The Bay Area will never be described as mainstream, but there's one day a year when we exchange the tie-dye and tofu for red, white, and blue and hot dogs. San Francisco's Fourth of July Waterfront Festivalfeatures live music from Taming Ingrid and the Zydeco Flames, not to mention food and drink from a host of sponsors. Those up for something civilized can enjoy a performance by the cast of The Phantom of the Opera at the Cannery, while those interested in something a little less high-minded can head to Ghirardelli Square for balloon sculptures and face painting (guess which colors). The fest closes with fireworks exploding over the bay to an accompanying soundtrack on 98.1 KISS-FM.
If you're in the mood for diversity, the Jack London Square Fourth of July lets patriotic partyers sample everything from jambalaya to apple pie. The music is just as eclectic, featuring blues band Rendezvous and hip hop group Big Bang Theory. A bounce house should keep the kids busy while their parents enjoy a pops concert by the Oakland East Bay Symphony with guest artist Ledisi -- timed to climax with the pyrotechnics over the bay.
Fancy something more traditional? Sausalito's Sizzling Independence Day is for you. This small-town celebration features a parade down Caledonia Street and a family picnic in Dunphy Park, complete with gunnysack races and a tug of war. Don't worry, though, it isn't too conventional -- just check out the Funky Dog Contest. After that, the party moves to Gabrielson Park for yet another fireworks display. Let's pray there's no fog.
San Francisco's fete begins at noon along the wharf from Ghirardelli Square to Pier 39. Admission is free; call 705-5500 or visit www.4thofjulysf.com. The East Bay's entertainment starts at noon at Jack London Square, 311 Broadway, Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 814-6000 or visit www.jacklondonsquare.com. Sausalito's soiree begins at noon at Bridgeway and Caledonia streets. Admission is free; call 289-4100 or visit www.ci.sausalito.ca.us.
-- Jack Karp
All That Jazz
Sounds of Independence
It's possible to be a patriot without descending into jingoism and cultural vacuity -- you can celebrate Independence Day weekend, for example, by celebrating jazz. The Fillmore Street Jazz Festivaldevotes a dozen city blocks to reprising an era when jazz was truly tenacious, when it unified and modernized that neighborhood and radiated a heartening vision: There was a war going on, yet music spilled into the streets. The list of this year's performers -- including Bitches Brew, the Fillmore Street Jazz District Preservation Big Band, and Mingus Amungus -- evokes wistful talk of "back in the day." But as this festival annually asserts, the day is now. It all starts at 10 a.m. on Fillmore between Jackson and Eddy streets, S.F. Admission is free; visit www.hartmannstudios.com/Fillmore.html.
-- Jonathan Kiefer
Kliban's cats loved to eat them mousies, Garfield craves lasagna, and R. Crumb's Fritz the Cat had a taste for -- well, let's just say he had unusual tastes. "Great Comic Cats"outlines these and other idiosyncrasies of a century of funny-page felines, from familiar modern faces (Calvin's pal Hobbes, Bloom County's Bill the Cat) to antiquarian pen-and-ink pets (like Felix and Krazy Kat). The exhibit also spotlights two current comics-page faves: Mooch, the "yesh" cat from Mutts, and Bucky, the sarcastic terror of Get Fuzzy. The show runs through Oct. 26 at the Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission (at New Montgomery), S.F. Admission is free-$6; Call 227-8666 or visit www.cartoonart.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
We Pledge Allegiance
In the past 30 years, the American flag has undergone a transformation, morphing from a despised emblem of conservatism to a post-9/11 symbolic protest against terrorism. The Presidio Trust addresses this shift in a round-table discussion featuring activist/politico Tom Hayden and Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz called "Whose Flag Is It Anyway?"The panel coincides with the Presidio's American flags exhibit, a collection of banners and memorabilia illustrating 200 years of U.S. history. Both the panel and show are hosted in the Presidio Officers' Club, 50 Moraga, S.F. The exhibit runs through July 31, and the panel takes place July 2 at 7 p.m. Both are free. Call 561-5500 or visit www.atthepresidio.org.
-- Joyce Slaton