Last year, COVID-19 curtailed many Lake Martin holiday celebrations, from Easter to Christmas and everything in between, including a number of the signature July 4 events that, for many, define a summer at the lake. Fortunately, most of those events are back on the calendar this year, and the weekend of the 4th is gearing up to be one of the most memorable yet.

Start the holiday weekend on Thursday, July 1, with Russell Craig on the Strand Sessions stage at Strand Park in Alexander City from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Bring a cooler or stop in at one of the downtown restaurants for dinner and a cold beverage to enjoy under the shade in the park. Bring lawn chairs, blankets for the grass and the pup on a leash. The kids love to roll down the hill in the park while their parents visit and listen to the music.

At the lake, the Smoke and Mirrors Duo with Todd Gantt will play at Chuck’s Marina on Thursday, so arrive early to get a table.

And on the courthouse square in Dadeville, Tina Marie and Friends will play at Zazu’s Verandah from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Enjoy a glass of wine; visit with friends; and stroll around the square.

Rise early on Friday, July 2, and visit the Naturalist Cabin at Russell Crossroads at 8 a.m. to meet Russell Lands Naturalist Marianne Hudson, who will discuss a variety of animals that can be seen in Russell Forest, as well as the roles they play in the balance of nature. Learn what they eat, how they live and some of the myths that surround them. Hudson will be in her cabin from 8 a.m. until noon on Friday and Saturday.

After getting a dose of Lake Martin nature, browse the Arti Gras tents to see how the beauty of Lake Martin inspires local artists at one of the area’s most popular juried art shows. The 10th annual Arti Gras event will feature more than 60 artisans from around the Southeast. All of the display items are handmade, from jewelry to paintings, pottery, woodwork, textile art, furniture, soaps and lotions and more. The show will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday of the holiday weekend.

Then, gather with friends and family for good food and great music all around the lake all weekend long. John Bull and Ed Picket will play at Friday on the Green at Russell Crossroads from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Bring a cooler and a picnic or pick up a bottle of wine and dinner at Catherine’s Market across the street. Set out your lawn chairs and spread a blanket on the plush grass. Bug spray is complimentary, and your pup is a welcome guest on a leash.

Smoke and Mirrors will play at The Social at Lake Martin on Friday night. On Saturday, The Social will host Smith and Buck.

Start your Saturday with a cool vibe and meet for yoga at the Town Green at Russell Crossroads with your mat and a bottle of water at 7 a.m. before taking another day to peruse the art under the big tents at Arti Gras. Maybe you could talk yourself into buying that piece you admired yesterday – if it’s still there.

At Chuck’s Marina, Shades of Gray will be the featured entertainment Saturday night. A Southern rock band with a diverse style, these guys are a local favorite.

Sunday, July 4, of course, is the big celebration. The day starts with the Russell Marine Fourth of July Boat Parade at 10:30 a.m. If you want to enter your decorated boat, you can register for free up until 10 a.m. at Kowaliga Marina. There will be gift certificate prizes for best overall boat and crew and other categories, which include tallest flag, largest flag, most patriotic crew and most creative theme. Spectator boats line the parade route to Children’s Harbor or bring lawn chairs and line the banks to cheer on their favorite entries.

Slip over to The Social after the boat parade for the mullet contest and a day of lakeside music. Bama Breeze will play the morning set, and Ben Sutton will be on stage in the afternoon.

Or meet up on Ponder Road for the annual Blue Creek Parade of decorated golf carts, trailers and open vehicles. Participants throw candy and other goodies to spectators along the route as they make their way to Niffer’s. This annual parade starts at 11 a.m.

There is much to celebrate as we are all allowed to gather again, and this year’s annual concert and fireworks at The AMP could be one of the best ever. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., so come early to claim your spot on the grass. Tickets for this concert and the incredible fireworks display are $10. Starting the show will be Alexander City’s own The Bank Walkers. Alabama’s Sweet Tea Trio will play before and after the fireworks, which start at 9 p.m.

It’s a full slate of fun at the lake this holiday weekend, so celebrate safely and have fun.