06/28/2005 11:00PM

More fireworks than usual to light up holiday weekend


Sin City is decked out in red, white, and blue. Flags are flying everywhere. Fireworks stands are going up all over town. It can mean only one thing: Fourth of July weekend is here.

Las Vegas loves a party, and any weekend is cause for celebration, but the city kicks it up a notch for this holiday. And even though anyone can stay home to commemorate our nation's birthday, an estimated 280,000 visitors will be packing hotel rooms here.

The focal point of any Fourth of July celebration is the fireworks display, and it will be hard to be anywhere in the valley this weekend and not be able to see one, especially with the holiday falling on a Monday.

The first show will be Saturday night at Cashman Field following the 7:05 p.m. game between the Las Vegas 51's and the Portland Beavers. There will be another show Sunday night, same time, same venue. Game tickets are $12.

Another big show on Saturday night will be following the Vegas Rocks 100 concert, part of the city's centennial. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are putting on a free concert on the grass at the Silver Bowl Special Events Complex. Note to ticket-holders: This was originally scheduled to be held on the asphalt in a parking lot at the Las Vegas Convention Center, but organizers didn't want the Chili Peppers' fans to be that hot. Tickets were distributed free online, though they are being shopped for upwards of $100 on eBay. (My favorite ads are the ones that boast "tickets are together," since all tickets are general admission with no reserved seats.)

Other Sunday night shows will be atop the Stratosphere Tower (and visible throughout the valley) and at the Avi Resort and Casino in Laughlin.

A full menu exists for Monday, the actual Fourth of July. In Las Vegas proper, displays will be at the Las Vegas Hilton, Desert Breeze Park, and Hills Park in Summerlin, which has the highest ticket price at $15, with the Las Vegas Philharmonic performing. Other shows to the east and south include Anthem Hills Park and Morrell Park in Henderson, Montelago Village at Lake Las Vegas, the 57th annual Boulder City Damboree (punsters have to love that name), and at Primm Valley Resort and Casino.

Poker scene still exploding

The explosion of poker's popularity won't slow down for the Fourth of July weekend, and, in fact, it is just gaining momentum leading up to next Thursday's start of the $10,000 no-limit Texas hold'em championship event, called the Main Event.

The Rio is the host hotel - until the final two days of the nine-day tournament are held at Binion's on July 14-15 - but other venues are also capitalizing on all the attention. This Friday from 7 to 9 p.m., the S2 Art Center at Charleston and Main streets is holding an event honoring the late Stu Ungar.

Limited-edition lithographs of Ungar, the only three-time World Series of Poker champion (1980, 1981, 1997), by Larry Grossman and Craig DeThomas, will be available, and there will be a book signing by Nolan Dalla, author of "One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey 'The Kid' Ungar, World's Greatest Poker Player."

And legendary poker player and author Doyle Brunson (world champion in 1976 and 1977) will also be on hand, as well as other luminaries in the poker world.

Hooping it up this summer

As of Wednesday afternoon, there was no official announcement if Las Vegas had been successful in its bid for the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, but there's still good news for Vegas. On Tuesday, the NBA Players Association held its annual meeting at Wynn Las Vegas and voted to ratify the collective bargaining agreement with the league, averting a lock out. That paves the way for the 16-team Vegas Summer League to take place at the Cox Pavilion July 6-15.

Some of the top picks taken in Tuesday night's draft, including Chris Paul, Martell Webster, Channing Frye, and Gerald Green, along with other up-and-coming stars, are expected to participate in the developmental league.

Tickets are available at vegassummerleague.com and at Cox Pavilion.

Sports book notes

Station Casinos has Jeff Gordon as the 6-1 favorite in the Pepsi 400 Nextel Cup race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night. Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the co-second choices at 7-1, with Michael Waltrip at 10-1, Tony Stewart at 11-1, and Kurt Busch at 12-1. Series points leader Greg Biffle is 18-1.

* Even with it being our country's birthday, there is also an international sports flavor this weekend with the Tour de France starting Saturday - Lance Armstrong is the odds-on 5-7 favorite at the Plaza, with Jan Ullrich at 5-2, and Ivan Basso at 10-1 - and Wimbledon having its women's and men's finals on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

* For those looking ahead to this time next year, the Plaza has odds on the 2006 World Cup, which will be held from June 9 through July 9 in Germany. Brazil is the favorite at 3-1, followed by Germany at 4-1, Argentina at 6-1, and England at 8-1. The United States is a 60-1 longshot.