A caravan parade, virtual chalk art fest and how to have your own chili cook-off. It’s Independence Day 2020 style!!

(Image via Getty)

For those accustomed to celebrating Fourth of July with big parties, parades, chili cook-offs, fireworks and concerts, the Independence Day holiday is going to feel a bit … different this year.

But just because the usual festivities and mass gatherings may be off due to COVID-19 concerns, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. After all, a holiday is a holiday, and sometimes it’s the simple things that mean the most. Perhaps you are looking forward to the premiere of the film of the original Broadway production of “Hamilton” on Disney+. Maybe you’ll have a backyard barbecue with your (very) nearest and dearest. Maybe you’ll just curl up with a good book and enjoy a day off. However you choose to spend it, we hope you’ll enjoy your Fourth of July weekend. Below are a few ideas, in case you need some inspiration.

Hold a personal chili cook-off

For some Palo Altans, the Fourth of July means it’s chili time. But crowded lines and communal food are not exactly advisable this summer. Never fear, the International Chili Society, which sanctions chili cook-offs nationwide, publishes online a number of award-winning recipes in a variety of styles from across the country.

Michael Brown, of San Carlos catering company MB’s Place, won top honors at last year’s Palo Alto Chili Cook-off for his renowned three-way chili. He recently gave us some tips for becoming a chili champion.

Michael Brown’s award-winning three-way chili; Michael Brown, owner of MB’s Place, with his son King-Michael after winning the Palo Alto Chili Cook-off last July 4, 2019. Photo courtesy Michael Brown.

“A common mistake people make is walking away from the kitchen and not stirring the pot. It’s like a spaghetti sauce: You gotta keep stirring that pot, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom,” he said. To check whether the chili has achieved the desired texture, he applies “the spatula challenge, which means if my wooden spatula doesn’t stand up by itself in the middle of my three-way chili it’s not thick enough.”

(For a full interview with Brown, check the Peninsula Foodist blog by Six Fifty contributor Elena Kadvany).

If laboring over a pot of beans and meat for the Fourth of July isn’t your thing, you can order chili from Brown by calling 415–748–4222. MB’s Place is also available for delivery.

Capelo’s got the goods (smoked, grilled and otherwise) for your Independence Day celebrations. (Image via the Capelo’s website)

More options from local chefs

The Capelo’s Barbecue to-go counter is open Thursday to Saturday from 12–5 p.m. Order all your faves (by which we mean their stellar brisket) online or just walk up to their brick & mortar location in Redwood City.

Palo Alto’s Zola (565 Bryant St.) is offering a Fourth of July grill kit including summer corn and fava beans, potato salad, smoked pork ribs, dinner rolls and apricot brown-butter crumble, available for pickup on Friday, July 3, from 3–7 p.m. The kit is fully cooked and just needs reheating. It feeds three to four people and costs $175.

Flea Street has an expansive summer-themed menu with the likes of crab cakes, fried green tomatoes and wild coho salmon. Order to go or picnic on their outdoor deck.

Woodside’s Village Bakery is featuring a Fourth of July “backyard” barbecue featuring smoked brisket, ribs, chicken, “all the fixins,” potato salad, corn, strawberry shortcake, cocktails, wine and beer from 12:30–4 p.m. at 3052 Woodside Road. Orders can be picked up or eaten at a small number of tables. Pre-order here for pickup.

Devil’s Canyon Brewery in San Carlos has a pair of holiday meal options for pickup: a seafood boil (featuring peel & eat shrimp, crawfish and Prince Edward Island Mussels) and a BBQ box (with baby back ribs & NY steak). Order online with a selection of their local microbrews for both order or delivery.

Camper in Menlo Park is offering their Stars + Stripes BBQ Dinner featuring braised pork, cornbread, grilled veggies and s’mores pie. It costs $150 and feeds 4–6 people.

The beaches on the Coastside will be closed for the 4th, but if you’re hungry in Half Moon Bay this weekend, check out Mezzaluna for takeout or dine-in on their open patio. Open from noon to 9:30 p.m.

Just need the essentials? Coupa Cafe has grocery pickup and delivery for the Fourth. Check out their lengthy menu via Coupa Grocery.

Sidewalk chalk art is all the rage during Shelter in Place. Check out our feature story on local chalk art wizard Marlon Yanes…and follow ChalkArtRWC on Instagram. (Images via ChalkArtRWC)

Chalk Full of Fun (Virtual) Chalk Festival

Normally, on July 4, Redwood City’s Courthouse Square and its surrounding areas turn into a glorious, colorful gallery of incredible chalk art. This year, the Chalk Full of Fun Festival, sponsored by the Redwood City Parks and Arts Foundation, is sending the fun home instead, with a virtual festival and a contest for kids, teens and adults. Interested artists can create a chalk drawing at home, upload photos of the work (including one with the artist), share on social media (use the hashtag #RWCchalkfest) and be eligible to win a prize. An online gallery of entries will be created on the festival’s website, where would-be participants can also find some tips on working with chalk (don’t forget the sunscreen). To enter, or for more information, click here.

Glimpses of 4ths gone by: keep the spirit, respect the distance with the Los Altos Hills vehicle caravan parade. (Past imagery via FosterCity.org & RWC’s Parade.org)

Independence Caravan Parade

While most traditional parades are canceled, Los Altos Hills is hosting a July 4 vehicle caravan parade, which will include emergency vehicles and classic cars, rather than its usual pedestrian and bike procession. The vehicles will cruise through town starting at Town Hall at 10 a.m. and ending at Fremont Road. According to the town’s website, residents are encouraged to walk to the street nearest them on the parade route or gather at Purissima Park or the Gardner Bullis campus and to maintain social distancing while watching the festivities.

(Virtually) Classic Fourth of July Celebrations

While it’s closed for in-person visits this time around, the San Mateo County History Museum is offering an online version of its annual “Old-Fashioned Fourth of July” celebration. Activities for children, including instructions on making ice cream, flags and whirligigs, and historic festive photos from the 1800s, will be posted on the museum’s site.

Foster City is still hosting its always-festive Fourth parade…virtually! Register for their Virtual Family Parade and Costume Contest (with a variety of categories, such as Most Patriotic Bike, Trike or Wagon). Or just log on later to the city’s Parks & Rec Facebook page to vote for all your local faves.

The new American amber ale by Freewheel Brewing—Waves of Grain—available now for your Independence Day festivities. (Image via Freewheel’s Instagram)

A refresher on refreshments

Palo Alto’s City of Cocktail is offering a Fourth of July cocktail bartending class at 5 p.m. on July 4. For $79 per person, participants will receive two hours of “activity-based bartender learning,” with all equipment provided and pizza appetizers included. Class size will remain small, to comply with health guidelines.

A top notch (mezcal) cocktails from Left Bank Brasserie…check out their new “American Bar” cocktail menu. (Image via Left Bank’s Instagram)

Menlo Park’s Left Bank Brasserie is also debuting its new “American Bar” cocktail menu, inspired by the post-World War I American expatriates in Paris. Over the holiday weekend, cocktail specials include the “Bee’s Knees” (gin, honey, lemon and lavender) and a daiquiri inspired by Ernest Hemingway, available for pickup or delivery (635 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park).

Gentry Bar in Cupertino is open throughout the weekend starting at 5 p.m. Drop by to have a cocktail on their outdoor patio or choose one (or many) of their excellent elixirs to take home.

Pacifica’s Tripp Distillery is offering cocktail-to-go specials (including the likes of their Bacon Bloody Mary & Gin Blueberry Lemonade) from Thursday to Saturday, from 2 to 7p.m. daily.

On the beer front, the mad scientist brewers of Belmont—aka Alpha Acid Brewing Co.—are releasing their new Tropical Milkshake this weekend: a 6% ABV IPA with mango and passionfruit. Meanwhile, the good folks at Freewheel Brewery just released Waves of Grain, their new (5.1 ABV) American amber available now via 32 ounce crowlers. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Almaden Quicksilver County Park. (Photo courtesy Santa Clara County Parks)

Take a hike

Take advantage of the beautiful weather and get out into the great outdoors. Many Santa Clara County and San Mateo County parks, open-space preserves and city parks are now open, with some restrictions (sorry, kids, still no playgrounds allowed). Conditions can change quickly, so confirm that your preferred park is accessible (as well as its parking lots and restrooms, in case you need them). Hikers should maintain a 6-foot distance between their party and others and wear masks when social distancing cannot be observed. For information on parks and preserves, check with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space DistrictSanta Clara County Parks and the County of San Mateo Parks Department…or check with individual cities on municipal park access.

New music for summer listening (from left) Call Me Ace recently released “Working from Home: Extended”The Corner Laughers just released Temescal Telegraph; and Rob Woods dropped “The Black Tape.” (Images via Instagram)

Find your next favorite soundtrack

Sure, live concerts aren’t a safe choice right now, but summer’s still a great time to discover new music by local artists. We’ve been publishing interviews with and information on Peninsula-connected musicians with new music recently released, including Call Me AceRob Woods and The Corner Laughers. Even better, on Friday, July 3, the music platform Bandcamp.com is waiving its fees, meaning 100% goes to the musicians, making it an especially supportive way to find new music in time to add it to your holiday-weekend playlist.

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