George Ranch Historical Park Fourth of July Enjoy Independence Day the way folks did in the 1890s, with watermelon seed spitting, three-legged races, egg and spoon runs, stilt walking and checkers with game pieces made from slices of dried corn. Back then, the womenfolk prepared elaborate picnic lunches, and potential suitors bid on those lunches; the privilege of picnicking with the sweet thing who prepared the food was included in the price. Today, menfolk can help themselves to the ranch snack bar and maybe even pay for a lady's lunch, though there will be a Box Social, where box lunches made in the traditional way will be auctioned. Lemonade and traditional cowboy music, too. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The ranch is 30 minutes from the Galleria. Take Highway 59 south to Crabb River Road, go south and follow the signs. 545-9212. $6; $3, children.
Six Flags AstroWorld Gosh almighty, as if any more incentive is needed to spark people's interest in spending a day with the family at AstroWorld. Yet here, on the Fourth of July, they supply us with a fireworks extravaganza that's bigger and brighter than their usual satisfying fare. Kirby at Loop 610, 799-1234. $29.95, one-day ticket; $18.95, under 48 inches tall; $14.98, senior citizens age 55 and older; free, children two and under.
Galveston The Fourth of July festivities begin at noon at Stewart Beach Park, where Sunny 99.1 FM will give away goodies until 3 p.m. When the sun sets, say around 9:15 p.m., a 25-minute fireworks display will begin. For the best view, you'll have to pack the sunburned and sticky kids in the car and look for a spot to park along Seawall Boulevard between 25th and 81st streets. Over the weekend following Independence Day, festivities continue with a KRBE/104.1 FM radio promotion at Stewart Beach (and more free goodies). Parking at Stewart Beach, $5; fireworks, free. (In case of inclement weather July 4, the fireworks will be rescheduled for Sunday, July 7.)
Clear Lake Fireworks Spectacular The city of Clear Lake has been at this for 21 years now, so they've got the details down pat. Near dusk, the Texas Air National Guard will do a flyover of Clear Lake, then, at 9:20 p.m., fireworks will be set off from a barge in the middle of the lake. The fireworks will burst and sizzle to patriotic music, compliments of Smooth 98.5 FM. The folks in Clear Lake say Clear Lake Park on the north side of the lake is the choicest spot for viewing the display, which will last about 20 minutes. Free.
Miller Outdoor Theatre New year; same deal. The city's Independence Day celebration at Hermann Park draws more people to Miller Outdoor Theatre than any other event of the year. A sea of humanity crashes over and down the hill, spilling throughout the park. The patrons stare wide-eyed into the sky as fireworks burst to the sounds of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the viewers' faces washed over in waves of red, of blue, of whatever color the pyrotechnic expert who packed the explosive fancied at the moment. There are perhaps flashier fireworks shows in town, but none affords such an opportunity to get so blanket-to-blanket and cooler-to-cooler with your fellow Americans. Free.
A Trip Through Time Spunky, hard-working kids from the Ensemble Theatre's Young Performers Summer Program will show their stuff and celebrate African-American heritage in a showcase. Seventy-five creative thespians, ages six to 17, will sing and dance in a fun show about African-American history and cultural arts. 5:30 p.m. today, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday. (Registration for Young Performers Summer Program Session II, July 9 to August 9, is under way.) Presented by the Ensemble Theatre at Mid Town Arts Center, 3414 La Branch at Holman) 520-0055. $5; $3, children 12 and under.
Paul Rodriguez For one night only, you have the chance to see a funny man recognizable from TV. The Laff Stop is billing this event as "a rare performance by the most recognizable Mexican comedian in the country today." Shows at 7:30 and 10 p.m. 1952 West Gray, 524-2333. $25. Reservations recommended.
Celebrate the Fifth of July And why not? Today is the birthday of patriot Admiral David Glasgow -- "Damn the torpedoes!" is his line, from the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay -- and the birthday of Phineas T. Barnum -- he said something true about suckers, that there's one born every minute. If that's not enough, July 5 is also the birthday of Cecil Rhodes, the guy responsible for all those scholars up to and including the current leader of the free world. There's no shortage of things to celebrate if you're in the mood, and singer Donna Corley and pianist Charlene Wright are playing pop, jazz and down-home country tunes to celebrate the fifth tonight. 9:30 p.m. Ovations, 2536 Times Boulevard, 522-9801. $9.
Floyd Flake on economic development and revitalization Floyd Flake, congressman, chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Finance and former HISD student, is the guest speaker at a TSU symposium on economic development and neighborhood revitalization. Professionally concerned with both international finance and inner-city revitalization, Flake will discuss these subjects with participants from area churches and organizations. The Reverend William "Bill" Lawson, a key figure in the symposium, says, "This promises to be one of the most profitable mornings those of us who are concerned about our community will spend together." The half-day symposium concludes with a luncheon. 8:30 a.m. Texas Southern University, School of Technology auditorium, 3100 Cleburne, 748-5240.