Welcome to our fourth annual July Fourth issue! Inside, you’ll find everything you’ll need to celebrate our country’s independence, from patriotic concerts and art shows to new movies and ideas to spice up the all-American hot dog at your family cookout. And, of course, we have a roundup of fireworks displays to ensure you have a bang-up time. (Bad pun intended.)

Here are some more tips to help you celebrate the Fourth:

While the sale of fireworks is legal in Maine, many communities have ordinances restricting or prohibiting their use. Be sure to check with your town hall before stocking up on Roman candles and Wolfpack Missile Bases.

While there are plenty of places on land to view fireworks, you can also take a boat cruise that will allow you to watch the displays from offshore. There are a few options available for watching the Portland fireworks, including family-friendly cruises aboard the Chippewa ($15 to $30; call 632-8842) and the Islander ($25 and $35; call 774-0808); and the annual All About Prevention fundraiser for ages 21 and older to promote HIV/AIDS prevention, departing from the Casco Bay Lines Terminal ($25; allaboutprevention.org/july4cruise.htm).

If you go to the July 4 festivals in Portland or Freeport, be sure to arrive early to stake out a spot, because they fill up quickly. For the Matt Nathanson concert at L.L. Bean Discovery Park in Freeport, people will start setting up lawn chairs at midnight. Don’t expect to show up at showtime and get a spot on the lawn, because it’s not going to happen.

Speaking of concerts, this week kicks off a slew of free open-air summer concerts in towns throughout Maine, including Belfast, Wells and South Portland. The popular “Alive at Five” weekly concert series at Portland’s Monument Square returns July 11 with a night of funk and old-school soul courtesy of The Kenya Hall Band with Model Airplane, and believe me when I say it’s not something to miss.

Most importantly, remember: DON’T DO ANYTHING STUPID. Spending the night in the ER is not a good way to celebrate the holiday. Keep that in mind when your brain tells you it would be cool to do something like set off an entire bag full of fireworks at once or drink alcohol while taking a late-night boat excursion to see the pretty sparklies. You (and others) will thank you on July 5.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RHarmonPPH