But this year, unless they've kept abreast of new federal anti-terrorism rules, the only fireworks going off at such events are the kind you can buy at a roadside stand.
Under the federal Safe Explosives Act, aimed at improving homeland security, people wishing to put on large fireworks displays as of May 24 must have a permit from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
That entails a background check, fingerprinting and personal interviews with ATF agents, a process that can take as much as three months.
Municipalities are exempt from the permit process, so cities' large displays are in the clear. But many displays may not go on this year, if those responsible for hosting them were caught unaware.
In Fairfield, Iowa, a 40-year tradition will end this Fourth of July when the sky above Fairfield Golf and Country Club stays dark.
"Every other year it was a simple process," said Pat Kessel, president of the country club's board. "We buy fireworks, get a shooter and have a display."
Told they would have to hustle through the permit process because they were late in applying, Kessel said they decided it just wasn't worth the hassle.
"Who wants to get fingerprinted to do that?" Kessel said. "I've been fingerprinted before. You go to the law center, have to buzz in and go to a back room just like a criminal. It's cold and military-like back there; it's not something I can see anybody wanting to do."
At this point, latecomers will find it increasingly difficult to get a permit before the holiday, said Larry Scott, a spokesman in the Kansas City ATF office.
"People who just do it once or twice a year are getting to where they're showing up at fireworks wholesalers and being told they need a permit," Scott said.
Some won't get one at all.
"I've got people who applied in the middle of March and they are yet to hear from the ATF," said Dick Hardy, general manager of the Kansas City-based fireworks company Aerial FX.
Scott said ATF agents are scrambling to get eligible applicants approved in time. Applications are sent to Dallas, then forward to Atlanta for background checks. After that, field agents talk to each applicant.
"We understand as far as the fireworks aspect that this is the first time (for the new rules)," Scott said. "We're trying to get permits out, as long as they're coming in. We can't guarantee anything, but we're still trying."
The rules don't apply to the smaller types of fireworks sold at roadside stands; exempted cities typically hire pyrotechnic professionals who are trained in shooting off the massive, coordinated displays seen around the nation.
Caught in the middle are the medium-sized, aerial display fireworks used in smaller communities, where volunteers or civic groups raise funds to hold the events.
"What we're running into, a guy spends $1,500 for a picnic for the Fourth of July," said Mike Dalton, of Fireworks Spectacular in Crestline, Kan. "Now, if he hasn't heard about this and comes into buy fireworks, I have to tell him he needs a permit."
Danny Ruth, a deputy with the Clay County, Mo., sheriff's office, hadn't given up hope - he was at ATF office in Kansas City last week applying for his permit.
Ruth said he has been putting on a private fireworks display for the past eight years, bringing together family members and friends. He said the company where he buys his fireworks - 25 of the 3-inch shells cost about $150, he said - sent a letter informing customers of the new rules.
Though he has been rushing to get his application filed, he said there's no guarantee he'll be approved in time.
"If it's not, we'll just buy the local fireworks and go from there," he said.
By Bill Draper