It is a grass-roots, privately directed, not-for-profit Independence Day celebration with goals of raising money for charities, fostering patriotism and providing an excuse to have good clean inexpensive fun.

Other than that, John Gullo's Hot Rock'n 4th in Ogden has zero agendas.

"Back in the old days, this is the way it was done," says Gullo, a businessman-turned-philanthropist whose American Dream Foundation provides the nucleus for what is slowly but surely becoming an Ogden tradition. "Cities would have celebrations that were civic oriented. It was basically a whole lot of volunteers making it happen."

Hot Rock'n 4th has one paid employee and 250 volunteers.

And about that many ways to celebrate.

Gullo, a man who owes his financial success to a lengthy fling as the king of Utah's Burger King franchises, turned his attention three years ago to what he considered a significant defect in Ogden's summer: there was no organized celebration for the Fourth of July and hadn't been for about three decades.

This just didn't ring right to a person who loved Ogden and loved America. After making so much money off so many burgers, he wanted to give something back.

So he dreamed up a whopper of a celebration.

You name it, Gullo and his committee have thought of it. At today's celebration, there will be a motorcycle parade down Washington Avenue to the Golden Spike Arena, site of the celebration proper, where there will be a monster truck exhibition and rides, snowmobile grass drag races, motocross races, trial bike BMX races, a demolition derby, figure-8 mini-car races, mud bog racing, a water park, a classic car show, an American history display where you can sit in a replica of the oval office and print your own copy of the Declaration of Independence, a kiddie train, batting cages and an obstacle course, entertainment by local musicians Ryan Shupe and Melissa Jones, a headlining concert by country music star Collin Raye and, finally, for those still standing, "the largest fireworks display in Northern Utah."

There will also be plenty of food.

Tickets were $10 until this morning, when the price for procrastinators went up to $12.

Except for food and souvenirs, that includes pretty much everything, including the Collin Raye show.

"It's cheap," says John, "because we want people to come and celebrate."

In the inaugural Hot Rock'n 4th two years ago, about 6,000 people attended and $45,000 was awarded to participating charities. Last year, about 10,000 people came and $90,000 went to charities.

This year, Gullo had already sold 10,000 tickets before this morning and when all is said and done he hopes to be able to deliver to 33 participating charities an amount well into six figures.

And then he'll start working on next year.

"Nobody really loses on a deal like this," says John. "There's no funding from any municipality. This is just people giving of their time, creativity and energy."

An independent Independence Day celebration: it doesn't get any more American than that.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to and faxes to 801-237-2527.