ERATH - In Erath, the Fourth of July isn't just a day. It's a two-week-long celebration of independence which includes a bar-b-que cook-off, a business and home decorating contest, and the traditional July 4 parade. And, this year, everyone in America will have the opportunity to see just how American independence is celebrated in this small Teche Area town.

Festivities began last Saturday in Erath with the annual barbecue cook-off competition. They will resume this Saturday and continue through July 4 proper.

Americans across the country will be able to celebrate along with Erath when ABC features the town in its special, "In Search of America: A July 4th Musical Celebration."

The three-hour show, hosted by Peter Jennings, will air from 7 to 10 p.m. on Independence Day.

The show will feature a sampling of Independence Day celebrations from across the country. Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys will be the featured act from Erath.

Before the actual Fourth of July events and the ABC filming on Thursday, however, the celebration kicks off Saturday with carnival rides at 6 p.m. TK Hulin & Smoke will provide music for a fais-do-do at 9 p.m. Both activities will end at 1 a.m.

"We'll have food booths, and sell all kinds of stuff - arts and crafts, T-shirts, carnival T-shirts, craft booths, all kind of different foods and drink," said Claudette Lacour, an Erath alderwoman and organizer of the annual July 4 celebration.

Sunday is bracelet night for the rides from 6 to 10 p.m. at a cost of $12. Music will be provided by D.J. Corey Menard beginning at 6 p.m.

Menard will return at 7 p.m. on Monday, while carnival rides will from 6 to 11 p.m.

Another bracelet night will take place from 6 to 11 p.m. on Tuesday. Shaky Ground will take the stage at 8 p.m.

On Wednesday, Lil' Band O' Gold will feature Warren Storm, Steve Riley, C.C. Adcock and the St. Martin Horns at 9 p.m. Dancers can compete at 10:30 p.m.

Carnival rides will take place from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Thursday will be an all-day celebration, beginning at 7 a.m. with a Fun Run. Runners will cover four miles, while walkers will traverse one mile.

Downtown will be drenched at 10 a.m. when water fights between area volunteer fire departments crank up.

For some old fashioned fund, watermelon and cracker eating, as well as potato relays, will follow the waterfights.

Patriotism will wind through the decorated streets when the parade begins at 5 p.m. with the theme "United We Stand."

The parade starts in front of Erath High School, travels through town, down to Kibbe Street and back to the school.

Kim Brasso and Louisiana Boogie takes the stage at 6 p.m. and rides continue from 1 to 10 p.m. Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys will perform at 8 p.m.

A giant fireworks display will light up the skies at 9 p.m.

All are invited to come for fun but are urged not to bring ice chests or beverage tubes.

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