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Fun + safety: equation for a fabulous Fourth

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Today marks the start of the Fourth of July weekend. And with beautiful summer weather on tap and activities galore, it might be easy to get carried away with the fun. Safe and sane isn’t just for public fireworks displays. Whether you’re in the backyard, at the river or on the road, give yourself some extra time and think safety first. Make sure your holiday memories are lasting ones. If you’re like many sobered by economic slowdown, you’re staying closer to home than you have in the past. And you’re not alone. AAA of California estimates holiday trips of 50 miles or more will be down 2.7 percent from last year. What might sound like a small percentage is equal to more than 300,000 fewer gallons of gas used from the same time last year. Good for the environment, but not for a tourism economy that has suffered with every other sector. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to have fun in the foothills this weekend. Colfax gets a jump-start with its annual Independence Day celebration and fireworks display today. Activities begin with a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m., followed by the Main Lion’s Club Parade at noon, and activities and music throughout the afternoon and evening. Fireworks wrap up at the day at about 9:15 p.m. Grass Valley takes the baton on Saturday morning with a community parade at 11 a.m., featuring the return of the Ophir Prison Marching Kazoo Band. Grass Valley and Nevada City trade off Fourth of July parades every year, and this year is Grass Valley’s turn. Fireworks launch at 9:30 p.m. at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Auburn’s Family Fourth fills Saturday afternoon’s schedule at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, beginning with the Little Miss and Little Mister Firecracker Pageant at 3:30 p.m. The annual parade begins Downtown at 7 p.m., and winds its way down Lincoln and High streets the fairgrounds. Get a shady spot along the street early, and then grab your blanket and lawn chair and bring it to the fairgrounds at 9:40 p.m. for the spectacular fireworks display. If your plans are more active, take necessary precautions against sun and flame. The forecast calls for temperatures in the 90s with a high UV index, so sunscreen will be the word of the day. And if you’re lighting fireworks, don’t — they’re banned in Auburn and unincorporated Placer County. If you’re headed to the American River or local lakes, make sure children are properly fitted with life jackets, and be alert to rapidly changing conditions. Horseplay or swiftly moving water can turn an amusing situation into an emergency in seconds. Be alert. And if you’re driving anywhere this holiday weekend, be keenly aware of increased presence by California Highway Patrol officers, Placer County Sheriff’s deputies and city officers on local roads. In fact, many were out already this week conducting speed checks in anticipation of higher traffic counts. In no case should you let the country’s birthday bash lead you to drinking and driving, whether you’re behind the wheel of a boat or a car. If you’ve had too much, turn your keys over to someone who hasn’t. If you can’t find such a friend Saturday night, call AAA of California’s “Tipsy Tow” program. With Tipsy Tow, AAA offers a free tow for drinking drivers — AAA member or not — from 6 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday. Simply call 1-800-222-HELP (4357) for a free tow up to five miles. Play it safe this weekend and live to see America celebrate another year.