Traveling is one of many Fourth of July weekend traditions.

This year, more Americans were expected to take to the road during the holiday weekend than in 2009. And those who did could look forward to paying more for fuel than in recent weeks.

The AAA Motor Club recently predicted the national average price of a gallon of regular unleaded to range from $2.70 to $2.80 during the holiday weekend. Locally, average gas prices have hovered just south of that amount.

AAA also reported the cost of a gallon of gas to be slightly higher than a year ago, but still a far cry from the painful $4 a gallon experienced in some places in July 2008.

Of course, the lingering recession and tight budgets still should keep many from traveling. For those who live in the Garden City area and want to celebrate the nation's independence, travel costs shouldn't be an issue.

This community once again has more than enough star-spangled options to help local residents enjoy the Fourth of July in style.

The busy weekend of festivities got under way Friday with music and refreshments at Stevens Park, and continues today and Sunday with free entertainment for all ages.

The schedule for today includes the Finney County Freeze-Off Ice Cream Contest at 9:30 a.m. in Stevens Park, followed by Wen Wurst reading the Declaration of Independence over the downtown sound system at 9:45 a.m. at the corner of Main Street and Grant Avenue.

After the reading, Downtown Vision's Freedom Parade will begin at 10 a.m. in downtown Garden City, followed by the Black Hills Energy Freedom Feed in Stevens Park, with free hot dogs, potato chips, watermelon and bottled water.

Other planned events Saturday include a Finney County Historical Society flea market from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the museum grounds in Finnup Park, and the Garden City Recreation Commission movie series presentation of "The Music Man" at 9 p.m. at Stevens Park.

On Sunday, Fourth of July festivities are to begin on high notes with a concert by Al Miller at 6:30 p.m. in Stevens Park, followed by the Garden City Municipal Band's annual Independence Day concert at 8 p.m. in Finnup Park.

The music will set the stage for Garden City's annual fireworks show. Those who gather at Lee Richardson Zoo or the 3i parking lot to take in the fireworks can expect an even more spectacular display than last year, with this year's fireworks launched from the bridge.

In the midst of all the music, food and fireworks that make July 4 special, everyone also should reflect on the day in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was approved, and the original 13 American colonies were celebrating separation from Great Britain.

Our forefathers fought and died for freedom. Equally dedicated men and women in the U.S. military put their lives on the line every day as wars rage on overseas.

Because of those efforts and sacrifices, the rest of us are able to revel in the holiday spirit. We all should remember to give thanks for the freedoms and rights we enjoy as Americans including the ability to celebrate our holidays in a variety of ways.

Never take that privilege for granted. Enjoy a safe and festive Fourth of July.

E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at denas@ gctelegram.com.