Many spectators at the 31st annual Red, White & Boom will have a waterfront view for the fireworks display.

Many spectators at the 31st annual Red, White & Boom will have a waterfront view for the fireworks display.

For the past three years, construction has limited access to a good portion of land along the Scioto River. Now, the city has opened Civic Center Drive from Broad Street to Main Street.

"It's one of the best viewing areas of the city to watch the fireworks. It's right across the river," said Mike Collins, executive director of Red, White & Boom.

Bicentennial Park and the Scioto Mile promenade won't open until next week, he said.

The city is expecting half-a-million people at the fireworks display, set for 10 p.m. July 1.

The number of food vendors - representing a variety of cuisines - has increased by about 15 percent, which is expected to eliminate long lines, Collins said.

Youngsters in grades 8-12 will participate in an inaugural talent contest, to be held from 2 to 4 p.m. in Genoa Park on the west side of the river near COSI. A committee reviewed dozens of tapes to pick the contest finalists, who will be asked to sing a patriotic song.

Many traditional activities will return this year, including the Taste of Boom, featuring samples from about a dozen restaurants in the Arena District. There will be a nominal fee for each dish. Beer sales will be offered. There also will be live entertainment in the Arena District, with bands performing at both stages in the area.

The children's area will open at noon on the west side of Neil Avenue between Long and Spring streets. The Children's Hunger Alliance will provide 1,000 free meals for children that afternoon. Activities include face-painting, making balloon animals and other craft opportunities, an inflatable play area, a GameTruck mobile gaming unit and other amenities.

The area will be fenced in and ID bracelets will be offered.

The Red, White & Boom parade kicks off at 6 p.m. at COSI on the corner of Belle and East Broad streets. The grand marshal is Col. James Perry, commander of the 37th Battalion of the Ohio National Guard, which soon will deploy to Afghanistan. Other participants include local sports teams, the Blue Jackets and the American Legion, which will have a motorcycle display.

The parade will proceed east on Broad Street, north along Front Street and will end at Spring Street.

"This year's Boom will have a bunch of great new activities, plus the traditional ones we've come to know and love," said Sarah Irvin Clark, spokeswoman for the event. "It's Columbus' marquee Independence Day event and it's going to be another great event for families to enjoy all day long."