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Richmond Skies Snap, Crackle, Pop

By far, the winner of the most expensive show you can see for free — unless you sit outside the Diamond — is Dogwood Dell. The city is spending $10,000 on that display, says Mary Boelt, recreation program specialist for Richmond. Of course, there's music too. After a 6 p.m. Motown concert, the Richmond Concert Band will conclude with the 1812 Overture, complete with howitzer explosions. Fireworks start at 10 p.m.

The Richmond Braves spend about $25,000 for each of their 20- to 30-minute shows, July 4 and 5, says spokesman Todd Feagans. It's a good deal for you — if you can get a ticket. (July 4 is sold out.) The July 5 game is $7; $5 for seniors and for children 12 and younger. The Braves play the Norfolk Tides at 7 p.m.; fireworks follow.

Paramount's Kings Dominion — which didn't readily have a cost for its show — sends about 2,500 shells into the sky each night from July 3-5. You must buy park admission (prices vary, but general admission for one adult runs $39.99). If you go July 5, says spokesman Mark Riddell, you can hear Lee Greenwood sing for no additional cost at 8 p.m. and at 10 watch fireworks created by Maryland-based Fireworks Productions.

Or head to the free show at the Chesterfield County fairgrounds. The county is spending about $7,000 to $8,000 on a July 4 display, says Parks and Recreation director Michael Golden. About 8,000 people showed up last year, but Golden says that figure doesn't include those who watch from their front yards and the parking lot. Gates open at 5 p.m., and rockets go off around 9:20.

Another good deal, if you're willing to drive, is Colonial Downs, where you can watch horses, explosions and bands all in one night. General-admission tickets are $2; children 12 and younger are free. Timberwolf plays July 4 at 9:15; Carbon Leaf plays July 5. That gives the track time to get the horses out of there before the fireworks, which are produced by Zambelli Fireworks Internationale.

And, says spokesman Darrell Wood, the first 5,000 people get 3-D glasses. "When you wear them it gives you six times the burst effect of a normal fireworks explosion," he says. The racetrack pays $5,000 per night for the show, he says, "but with the 3-D glasses it looks like a [heck] of a lot more."

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