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Fourth of July for $17.76

As gas prices continue to soar, $17.76 won't take you as far as it used to. But it can take you far enough for a good time this Fourth of July.

According to AAA, the ­average gas price in the Lexington area when this story went to press was $3.97 a gallon, up more than $1 from last year. Although that means it costs more to drive to something to do, that doesn't mean there's less ­entertainment available.

A number of celebrations throughout Kentucky and in southern Ohio are accessible for Lexingtonians ­looking for a good time.

With the help of AAA's trip ­calculator, we found that $17.76 can take you, one way, about 108 miles from Lexington, based on getting 24 mpg. That would include Louisville and Cincinnati, where you can find great Fourth of July ­celebrations.

Here are some ideas to celebrate Independence Day by spending a patriotic $17.76 or less in gas for at least a one-way trip.

Taking it to the limit

In Louisville, the annual ­Waterfront Independence Festival started ­Thursday and continues Friday, featuring performances by acts including Los Lobos and George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. The event, at Waterfront Park, is 76 miles from downtown Lexington and would cost about $11 for gas. Once there, the event is free other than parking and food costs, though you can bring your own food and bottled non-alcoholic beverages. A fireworks show over the Ohio River will start about 10:30 p.m.

■ For groups looking for a water adventure, The Beach Waterpark in Mason, Ohio, is about the farthest you can travel for $17.76. The water park's annual July Fourth celebration features a special admission fee this year: Families or groups of four can buy a package of admission tickets online for $44. Marketing coordinator Kim Sundrup said the park hopes the special admission cost will attract consumers looking to save money while enjoying a full day of festivities.

The park's entertainment will include live music and an ”all-American“ barbecue. Sundrup said the park will not have its own fireworks display, but patrons should be able to see local fireworks displays from the pools.

■ If fireworks and swimming aren't your cup of tea but you'd like to partake in some Americana fun, head to Cincinnati's Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park. A new floral show and exhibit opens Friday and will run until Aug. 24. Its name? America the Beautiful. The exhibit replicates Washington's National Mall and features thousands of plant species from around the globe. The exhibit is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and admission is free. The cost to drive to Cincinnati should run you about $14 each way.

A capital Fourth

If you're searching for fireworks outside Lexington but close enough to stretch your $17.76 so it lasts through a round-trip drive, check out the fireworks display at the state capital.

Frankfort, about 29 miles east of Lexington, will have a celebration starting at 6 p.m. Friday at Capital View Park featuring live music and activities for kids. Fireworks will begin at dusk. The round trip will cost less than $10, leaving you enough cash for dinner.

Right here at home

Although there are plenty of events within 108 miles of ­Lexington, events right here might make it worth it to save that gas and spend your $17.76 downtown.

This year's Fourth of July ­celebration will start about a half-hour earlier, said Penny Ebel, the city's special events director. The day will kick off with the annual ­Bluegrass 10,000, which starts this year at 7:30 a.m. After the run, downtown will be filled with food vendors, the annual parade and the return of the waiters' race, an obstacle course for representatives of various restaurants and bars. The winner gets bragging rights about who can best serve a bottle of wine.

Ebel said the city hopes to surpass last year's attendance record of more than 150,000. She said planners have discussed whether more people will show up to celebrate the nation's independence because of rising gas prices.

”It's a toss-up,“ she said. ”The Fourth falls on a Friday this year, and people like to travel on the weekends, but right now with gas prices, we're hoping people will choose not to travel and will come downtown for the Fourth.“

She said the events will follow the same structure as in year's past, but there are new attractions in the parade she hopes people will enjoy, including the Marching Elites, a cadet group from Hampton, Va., that will perform a variety of routines down the parade route.

The annual Red, White and Boom concert will take place in Rupp Arena's Cox Street parking lot, and will feature seven country music artists. Ebel said the performances will begin at 2:30 p.m., half an hour earlier than usual, and will wrap up right before the 10 p.m. fireworks show. Admission is $5, free for children 12 and younger.

Fun on the Fifth and Sixth

The Fourth of July party will continue in Harrodsburg on Saturday, and will cost just less than $17.76. For about $11 in gas (round trip) and $5 in admission fees, you can attend a gospel concert featuring patriotic and traditional songs performed by the Patriot Quartet at James ­Harrod Amphitheater at Old Fort Harrod State Park.

■ If you spend your available funds Friday, there is free fun to be had in Lexington on Saturday and Sunday. The annual Woodland Jubilee at Woodland Park will be 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday and will feature bluegrass performances. On Sunday, Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, 483 West Reynolds Road, hosts a Stars and Stripes celebration. The party begins at 7 p.m. and will feature a performance by bluegrass artists The Farewell Drifters, carnival-style food, a bike parade for children and fireworks.

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