Freedom Fair


Freedom Fair, the South Sound’s Fourth of July national birthday bash, is right around the corner. It is back again to delight those who stroll the Ruston Way waterfront or who rope their boats to the buoys and floats, to the log booms and the docks to spend a lazy day adrift while the festivities unfold all around them. Remarkably, this iconic Tacoma event has been taking place for nearly 40 years.

For those who meander along the length of the two miles of waterfront, there are plenty of chances of a respite from food vendors offering cuisine of almost any type imaginable. There are beer gardens and makers of all manner of mixed drinks and cold juices as well as ice cream sellers who wander about with portable freezers to keep their wares nice and chill. Merchants selling hats, airy garments, crafts, jewelry, sunglasses, toys and all manner of other goods are intermingled with the food stands. 

Freedom Fair boasts no fewer than seven strategically placed stages where musical groups and other entertainment can be enjoyed throughout the course of the day. Additionally, there will be an air show, a car show, pole vaulters, kids entertainment (like bounce houses, face painting and bubble blowing) and hot dog eating contests.

A visit to Freedom Fair means that one becomes a participant in a parade of Tacoma’s diverse population. People-watching is one of my own interests when I make the annual Independence Day saunter along the waterfront.

The early birds like to bring their blankets and lawn chairs and coolers and beach umbrellas and stake out a parcel of prime territory from which they may best enjoy the spectacle to come as the light begins to drain — at last — from the long summer’s day. Darkness is needed to fully dramatize the brilliant display of orchestrated fireworks that boom and sizzle and sparkle and roar in a great climax that hearkens back to therevolution of a cluster of colonies against the might of the global empire of the British.

Hot rodders and automobile aficionados will enjoy the car show that will be held in the Lobster Shop parking lot. There will be everything from groovy Corvettes to customized rat rods. The car show will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This year, organizers are starting a place for pets. The pet zone on the west end will be a great place to meet other pet owners and those in the pet industry.

In an area designated as Camp Patriot, where the service of military veterans and active duty military personnel are celebrated, there will be an event called Armed Forces Icon, which runs from 8-10 p.m. The show is a vocal competition where 10 active military and military veterans will compete against each other in a singing competition complete with a panel of judges. Camp Patriot is located next to the Lobster Shop restaurant.

Stages at Dickman Park, The Ram, Katie Downs, Les Davis Pier and the East End Park will feature groups playing music of many types. 

The air show features the lofty antics of daring men and women in their flying machines: stunt pilots, synchronized flying groups, helicopter ballet “dancers” and a jet or two. You can watch Don Keating dart about in his McDonald Douglas Skylark and enjoy the vintage beauty of Dan Vance’s P-51 Mustang named “Speedball Alice.”

At 10 p.m., the skies over Commencement Bay will become alive with the fireworks show, which will be visible to more than 125,000 spectators. Called the Stan Naccarato Memorial Fireworks Extravaganza, the show honors one of Freedom Fair’s staunchest supporters.

For those who don’t want to fight the traffic or deal with parking, then opt to take the bus. This year the bus system will drop passengers at both ends of the Freedom Fair, which is conducive to the new layout of the event with the center of the event now being the Les Davis Pier. You can catch busses from free parking areas at Tacoma Community College or the Tacoma Dome Park and Ride. Busses will run every half hour. Visit for a complete schedule of activities and transportation routes.

Freedom Fair is presented by a community-based, volunteer-driven, non-profit 501 C (3) organization called the Tacoma Events Commission. It is independent of the City of Tacoma. Commission members volunteer and work all year to prepare for the annual event.

For more on Freedom Fair visit

Saturday, June 30 is Bike Night. Come to Wings and Wheels on your bike and get discounted entry prices plus free flight line parking. Why hassle with paid parking, parking on the street or parking off site and taking the shuttle in, park at show center. Bring your motorcycle, bicycle, unicycle, tricycle, it doesn’t matter what kind of cycle, come as early as 3 p.m. and park show center. Motorcycles can come in from 3 until 4:15 p.m., bicycle riders should bring a lock and leave your bike near the front entry to the event. If you are a bike club and want to host a bike check, contact us right away and we can get that set up.

End your bike ride at Tacoma Narrows Airport and spend a warm summer night at the airport enjoying the air show, live musical performances, great beer and tasty food.

Onsite parking for the Gig Harbor Wings and Wheels event is $10 per car. This will give you the opportunity to park on the north end of the tarmac and be close to the air show, car show, and events throughout the day. Parking is limited to the first 300 who purchase their ticket. While there may be some onsite parking still available on the day of the event, we highly suggest using the free offsite parking.

The event will have free shuttle buses running all day to and from the St. Anthony’s Medical Clinic (4700 Pt. Fosdick Dr. NW, Gig Harbor). Park at the allotted parking areas at St. Anthony’s for free and take a free shuttle bus to and from the event. The buses will run every 15-30 minutes with the first bus leaving to the airport around 10:45 a.m. and the last bus leaving the airport at 4:30 p.m.

The list of performers for the air show is impressive. For information visit

Gig Harbor Wings and Wheels

Back again for the eighth year, the Gig Harbor Wings and Wheels Air Show and Car Show will be back at the Tacoma Narrows Airport on June 30 and July 1. This event will feature many different aspects including — multiple live aerobatic performances and fly-overs, dozens of planes on static display, a 200+ count car show on Sunday only, vendors, delicious food, a beer garden and activities for the kids. The event will run from 4-9 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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  1. Are bicycles allowed at the fair? We were considering riding our bicycles to the fair and, if possible, use them to get from one end to another.

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