The biggest and best Fourth of July celebrations in the Austin area

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It’s that wonderful, hot-as-heck time once again in our fair and free country. It’s time to fire up that grill, crack open some cold ones, inflate those pool toys and stock up on the mother of all personal fireworks displays like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s the fourth of July. Happy 241st birthday, America.

No proper fourth of July celebration is complete without a professional fireworks display, surrounded by your friends and neighbors. So here’s your guide to the best firework displays and parties in our area:

CEDAR PARK

Fourth of July Parade & Celebration

When: Tuesday, July 4, parade starts at 10 a.m., celebration at 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Where: Elizabeth Milburn Park, 1901 Sun Chase Blvd.

Fireworks: 9:15 p.m.

The City of Cedar Park’s fourth annual Fourth of July parade will take place along Discovery blvd. from the HEB Center to the recreation center. Be sure to bring seats if you want them. At the celebration, there will be live music, bingo, a washer tournament, air castles, free watermelon and a fireworks display. However, fees apply for food concessions, face painting, and carnival games and rides. There’s also the Milburn Pool where you can cool off. It’s open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and daily admission rates apply. Attendees are encouraged to park at Cedar Park High School or Austin Community College. For more information, call (512) 401-5500.

LEANDER

Leander Liberty Fest

When: Tuesday, July 4

Where: Fairgrounds between Hero Way and Highway 183A

Fireworks: 9 p.m.

Leander’s free, family-friendly event is perfect for the whole family with live music, food and craft vendors, children's activities and a spectacular fireworks display. This year’s live music headliner will be Texas country star group Josh Abbott Band. Gates open at 4:30 p.m., with music starting at 6 p.m. and fireworks by Pyrotecnico from 9 to 10 p.m. at the Leander Capital Metro station — which will be closed all day. Call 512-528-9909 for more information.

ROUND ROCK

July Fourth Frontier Days Celebration

When: Tuesday, July 4, parade starts at 10 a.m., party at noon

Where: Old Settlers Park 3300 Palm Valley Blvd.

Fireworks: At dark

A parade, fireworks, full-scale carnival rides, jalapeno pepper eating contest, Swifty Swine Pig Races, children’s games, Sam Bass Shootout reenactment, a LEGO Batman showing in the park and skydivers are all part of the City of Round Rock’s July Fourth Frontier Days Celebration. The event begins with free watermelon and music from the Austin Symphonic Band. Visit www.roundrocktexas.gov for more information.

AUSTIN

H-E-B Austin Symphony 39th Annual July 4th Concert and Fireworks

When: Music begins at 8:30 p.m.

Where: Vic Mathias Shores (formerly Auditorium Shores)

Fireworks: 9:30 p.m.

Easily the biggest event on this list, organizers claim the H-E-B Austin Symphony’s July 4th concert will be the biggest Independence Day event in Texas. Right off of South Congress, the free event will be held at the grassy Vic Mathias Shores, where attendees will be able to take in the fireworks display out over the Austin city skyline. While the fireworks are blazing through the night’s sky, the symphony orchestra will be accompanying the spectacle with patriotic classics — that means the 1812 Overture, music fans. For a good spot, be sure to get there early. For more information visit austinsymphony.org.

Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic

When: Doors at 11 a.m.

Where: Circuit of the Americas

Tickets: $39.50-$550

If you’re looking for the quintessential Austin fourth of July party, then you might want to check out Willie Nelson’s 4th of July picnic. Opening up for Shotgun Willie is Sheryl Crow, Kacey Musgraves, Jamey Johnson, Steve Earle, Margo Price, Asleep at the Wheel and many, many more country rockers. For more information, visit www.circuitoftheamericas.com.


How to grill the perfect burger

Could any food be as simplistic and delicious at the same time as a patty of beef on top of a crusty bun, served with lettuce, tomato and your choice of condiments? A juicy burger can satisfy so many cravings in one sitting.

If ever there was a recipe to master, it would be grilling the perfect burger. Though barbecued burgers may seem easy to make, all too often burgers are botched by a few mistakes. But don't worry, burger mastery is within reach if you follow these simple tips.

* Begin with fresh meat. Freshly ground meat will produce the best flavor. If you are unsure when the packaged ground beef was made, ask the butcher or someone in the meat department of the supermarket to grind you up a fresh batch. Otherwise, use a food processor or an attachment on a stand mixer to grind the meat yourself.

* Fat has flavor. If you're going to indulge in a burger, make sure it has a fair amount of fat content. Fat helps keep the burgers moist and juicy. Make sure the fat content is about 18 to 20 percent of the mix. This helps to guarantee flavorful burgers.

* Keep the meat cold. Chilled burger patties will firm up and hold their shape better during cooking. Leave the pre-made patties in the refrigerator until the last minute. Keep patties on ice if you will be cooking burgers in batches.

* Don't overhandle the meat. Compressing the meat and handling it too much can lead to dry, dense burgers. Avoid tough meat by handling it as little as possible. Keep your hands wet while shaping the patties so they'll come together easily.

* Oil up the grill. A clean, well-oiled grill prevents burgers from sticking during cooking.

* Make sure the grill is super-hot. The goal is to cook burgers over high heat and fast. This is achieved with a very hot grill. It may only take three to five minutes per side to cook the burgers, depending on the thickness of the patty.

* Flip only once. Wait until the burgers have been grilling for a few minutes and release easily from the grill grate. Flip them over and allow them to cook a few minutes more. This helps keep the juices inside the meat and prevents your burgers from turning into burnt hockey pucks.

* Resist the urge to squash the burgers. Pushing down on the burgers with the spatula will only force the juices out. If you want dry burgers, press them down. If you want nice, juicy burgers, step away from the spatula.

* Allow the burgers to rest. Take the burgers off the grill and let them rest for 5 minutes so that all of their juice redistributes through the patty. Toast your hamburger buns and then serve the burgers with your favorite toppings.

Dig in and enjoy your efforts, as well as the compliments.

Homemade ice cream makes for the perfect summer treat

Ice cream is synonymous with summer, when rising temperatures and Independence Day call for some refreshing celebration. Those who want to experiment with homemade ice cream may want to consider the following recipe for "Dulce de Leche Ice Cream" from Lou Seibert Pappas' "Ice Creams and Sorbets" (Chronicle Books).

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

2cups half-and-half or milk

4large egg yolks

1/2cup sugar

12ounces butterscotch chips, divided

1cup heavy whipping cream

1teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare a large bowl or pan of ice water.

In the top of a double boiler, heat the half-and-half over simmering water until steaming. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then whisk in the sugar. Whisk in about half of the hot half-and-half and pour the yolk mixture into the pan of half-and-half. Stir with a silicone spatula or spoon and cook over simmering water for about 8 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the chips and continue stirring until blended in and the custard coats the back of the spatula, about 2 minutes more. Immediately place the custard pan in the ice bath and stir the custard occasionally until it cools to room temperature. Transfer to a container and stir in the cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 3 hours.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is almost frozen, add the remaining 1 cup chips and churn until blended in, about 15 seconds more. Transfer to a container, cover and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Fireworks Safety

  • Do not let your children buy fireworks without adult supervision

  • Only buy from reliable fireworks sellers

  • Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks

  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place

  • Find a smooth, flat surface, away from the house or other buildings, dry leaves or grass

  • Be sure to have water handy in case of a malfunction or fire

When you’re ready to shoot:

  • Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks

  • Always read and follow label directions, warnings and instructions

  • Be considerate of your neighbors

  • Only ignite fireworks outdoors and away from houses and out buildings

  • Light only one firework at a time

  • Never try to re-light fireworks that have not fully functioned

  • Never give fireworks to small children, even sparklers cause serious burns

  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks

  • Never throw fireworks at another person, vehicle or animal

  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket

  • Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers

  • Dispose of spent fireworks properly

For a full list of consumer fireworks safety tips, visit www.FireworksSafety.org.

Source: Williamson County Office of Emergency Department

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