Freebie of the Week

he Weekly Planet would like to personally thank any Bay area resident who has conducted a ritual rain dance in the back yard over the last few weeks. Obviously it's working, judging by the fat, dewy drops falling from the sky lately. But your job is not done, amateur shamans. More rain is needed if we are to enjoy that hottest of all fire-hazard holidays — Independence Day. Thanks to last year's drought, nearly every Bay area city called off the fireworks, and next to the charred hot dogs and drunken fights with relatives, those big bursts in the sky are what we look forward to most. This year, luck be with us, we'll be watching the colors from the first annual AquaFest.

Billed as the official City of Tampa 4th of July Celebration, this two-day party takes place outdoors at The Florida Aquarium and Shops at Channelside. From noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 3 and 4, the district is teeming with activities for young and old (OK, mostly young). Fun stuff includes giant inflatables, face paintings, clowns, arts and crafts, and other stuff to wear the kids out; marine education booths and nautical exhibits by the aquarium, U.S. Coast Guard, Tampa Port Authority, Center for Marine Conservation and others; the first-ever Channelside Summer Arts Festival, sporting jewelry, paintings, glassware and more by local and regional artists; a virtual cruise courtesy of Royal Caribbean; tons of seafood from Shells, discounted admission to the aquarium and, of course, 20 minutes of spectacular fireworks on Wednesday evening. Don't forget the music: Bad Neighbor, the Rex Rogers Band (formerly Bangarang) and Stormbringer are scheduled for Tuesday, with Land Sharks, the Living Waters Church Choir and others helping you get your groove on throughout Wednesday. Bring your folks, friends, kids and a bottle of Skin-So-Soft (for the skeeters, duh) and you've gotta plan.

The Florida Aquarium's at 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. Call 813-273-4000. All outdoor activities are free; Aquarium admission for July 3 and 4 only is $7.

—Kelli K