I was privileged to attend the Fourth of July festivities at the Fort Vancouver Historic Reserve in Vancouver, WA a few years in a row when I was living there and it was worth it every time. You have to arrive early (and when I say early, I mean around 6 a.m.) to stake out a good spot for viewing the fireworks. You stake out your spot by laying out blankets and you keep your spot by having people continue to occupy it throughout the day. People get pretty possessive about their spots and this part can get a little ugly! There are so many events that take place at "the fort" throughout the day, that there is plenty to keep you occupied! They have musical entertainment throughout the day including local bands and the Army Reserve Band. They also have carnival rides, a Red Cross blood drive, kids games, arts and crafts vendors, and food and beverage vendors. If you haven't had an "elephant ear" before, you definitely have to try one, and if you have had one before, I don't need to say anything else! The evening ends with a 30 minute fireworks display that is choreographed to a musical soundtrack and which has been deemed "one of the best in the west." This was the highlight of the evening to me. There was just something about being out there under the stars with thousands of other people listening to the music and watching the fireworks!
The event is free, but they do collect donations. This year's theme is "Take $4 to the 4th" and they are encouraging people to bring $4 donations. You can find out more information and get details about all of the events at their official website: http://www.official4thofjuly.org/app