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Merchant marine festivity to debut as a spirit of independence sweeps the area.

Even before there was such a thing as the U.S. merchant marine, merchant sailors--then known as privateers--helped defeat the British at sea during the Revolutionary War.

“The privateers had more ships than the U.S. Navy and they were the ones who destroyed or captured British ships,” says Joe Vernick, president of the United States Merchant Marine Veterans of World War II.

After becoming institutionalized as merchant mariners, they became the suppliers of American fighting forces at war--losing 7,000 men during World War II.

In what the merchant marine veterans hope will become a South Bay tradition, the group will hold its first Fourth of July ceremonies Wednesday at 10 a.m. aboard the SS Lane Victory, a World War II cargo ship that is being restored as a memorial to merchant seamen who died in war. It is moored at the Port of Los Angeles Berth 52 in San Pedro.

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Vernick said the ship, which served through the Vietnam War, is symbolic of “the many thousands of merchant mariners who perished . . . for the freedom and security we now all enjoy.” He said Independence Day “has special meaning to merchant mariners” because of their revolutionary roots.

The Lane Victory ceremony is one of many Fourth of July observances in the South Bay, beginning Saturday and continuing through the Wednesday holiday. There will be traditional fireworks displays, along with community fairs offering crafts and entertainment, picnics, sporting events and games, and even a patriotic sing-along.

Lomita will combine commemoration of the Fourth with its city birthday during a weekend Founders Day celebration. A country-Western street dance will be held Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Railroad Museum, 250th Street and Woodward Avenue. On Sunday, there will be a community fair from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Lomita Park, 24428 Eshelman Ave. Attractions include arts and crafts, food booths, rides for children, a classic car show and fireworks at 9 p.m.

Wilmington’s Drum Barracks Civil War Museum, 1052 Banning Blvd., will hold an Independence Day festival Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring a flag ceremony, fife and drum corps, food and entertainment provided by the Horse Soldiers rock group. There is a $1 charge for museum tours. The barracks are all that remain of a Civil War-era fort that once covered 60 acres.

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On Independence Day itself, communities from San Pedro to Inglewood will celebrate the holiday.

Amateur bicycle racing, music by the Carson-Dominguez Hills Symphony and the Wright Combination duo, and a fireworks display will be presented in Carson beginning at 5 p.m. at the Olympic Velodrome on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills, Victoria Street and Avalon Boulevard. Admission is $2.

El Segundo will have fireworks at Recreation Park, Grand Avenue and Eucalyptus Drive, at 9 p.m.

Gardena will celebrate from noon to 9 p.m. at Rowley Memorial Park, 13220 S. Van Ness Ave., with softball games, food and games, races, carnival rides and music. Fireworks begin at 8:30 p.m.

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Inglewood expects more than 10,000 people at the 55-acre Centinela Park for a day of activities. Free swimming and tennis start at 7 a.m., a music, fashion and magic show is scheduled at 1 p.m., and fireworks will cap the day at 8:45 p.m. Snack bars will offer reduced-price refreshments, along with free popcorn and cotton candy. The park is at Centinela and Florence avenues.

Lawndale’s annual variety and fireworks show will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at Leuzinger High School, 4118 W. Rosecrans Ave. A magician, puppeteer, singers and a youth steel drum band will entertain.

Actor Cliff Robertson is scheduled to speak at the long-established Palos Verdes Independence Day Celebration, which starts at 10 a.m. at Malaga Cove School, 300 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates. The event’s other attractions include a children’s bike parade, entertainment, an apple pie baking contest and presentation of youth essay awards. Celebrants will be able to picnic and enjoy such old-fashioned contests as tug-of-war and two-legged races on the grass.

Les Fishman, chairman of the committee that has been holding the celebration for 28 years, calls it an “old-fashioned July 4th celebration” that renews “a sense of appreciation for our independence and great American heritage of freedom.”

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Rancho Palos Verdes will hold its 15th annual Country Fair from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Civic Center, 30940 Hawthorne Blvd. Jim Gamble and his puppets are the headline attraction, and a country-Western band will entertain. Youngsters will be able to ride a restored 1940s carousel, and there will be a variety of food and arts and crafts booths. Free shuttles will run between the fair and nearby parking lots at Hughes Market, Point Vicente Interpretive Center and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

The Korean Friendship Bell will be rung 13 times, honoring the original 13 American states, at San Pedro’s July 4th observance at 10:30 a.m. at the bell, 37th Street and Gaffey Avenue in Angels Gate Park. Two choirs will provide entertainment. At dusk, fireworks will be shot off on the Cabrillo Beach breakwater. The beach is off of Stephen M. White Drive near Pacific Avenue.

Torrance holds its 10th annual Old-Fashioned Fourth from noon to 9 p.m. at Charles Wilson Park, 2200 Crenshaw Blvd. Family attractions include food and games, free tennis clinics and mini-steamer train rides, entertainment, a patriotic sing-along and a “Fabulous ‘50s Revue.” Fireworks will bring the evening to a close.

A fireworks extravaganza, complete with three bands and a parachute team trailing colored smoke, will be presented by the South Torrance Lions Club at the El Camino College stadium, Redondo Beach and Crenshaw boulevards in Torrance. Gates open at 6 p.m. The show will feature aerial fireworks, as well as ground displays in which fireworks will outline the Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty and the American flag. The show raises funds for Lions community charities; admission is $7 for adults, $3 for youngsters ages 6 to 12, and free to children under 6.

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“We try to make it a good, wholesome family affair,” said fireworks committee chairman Jim Reinhardt, adding that some of the evening’s greatest excitement is provided by the parachutists."People scream and shout, wondering if they’re going to land in the stadium.” Most of them do.


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