Three cheers for the red, white, and blue. It’s time to fire up those grills, put on some summer music jams, gather around with friends and family, and watch the majestic fireworks fill the night sky like an artist, violently but beautifully painting on a massive canvas. It’s a day for all Americans to gather together, have a great time, and celebrate the country’s long-held independence from Great Britain.
Having a backyard barbeque and a house party is one of the most basic yet beloved way to enjoy the holiday. Whether you host or just attend the party, it’s sure to be a blast. The environment can also be much more comfortable and intimate, as opposed to going somewhere public. Oftentimes these house partygoers will eventually migrate to some area where thousands of others will join for a magical display of patriotic fireworks. It’s a chance to join up with other strangers who have been having their own fun on this day. There are no strangers here in America though because everyone here is an American, coming together to enjoy a special spectacle before retreating back to each other’s respective parties and eventually home and back to reality. Before returning to that reality though, here are some other special activities and places New Yorkers can go to enjoy the holiday and some history to put everything into context.
The Fourth of July has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, which Thomas Jefferson drafted. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues, according to History.
Complete independence wasn’t very popular among the colonists at the start of the Revolutionary War. Growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary sentiments helped to quickly reverse public opinion as the war progressed.
John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence. He reportedly turned down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest. A not-so-secret but not as well-known amazing fact about Adams and Jefferson is that they both died on July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, according to History.
In the pre-Revolutionary years, colonists did in fact have annual celebrations of the king’s birthday, which traditionally included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions and speechmaking. Some colonists started using the chance to pave the way for satire’s place in this country. In 1776, they celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III, as a way of symbolizing the end of the monarchy’s hold on America and the triumph of liberty, according to History.
Festivities like concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets were at the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence, and this all started right after its adoption. Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777 at the same time Congress was dealing with the ongoing war, according to History.
Patriotic celebration became an even more widespread tradition following the War of 1812, which was when the United States again battled Great Britain. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday, and in 1941, the provision was expanded to make sure federal employees received pay on the holiday, according to History.
Over the years, the political importance of the holiday would decline, but Independence Day remains an important national holiday and a symbol of patriotism.
Go to Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island to enjoy a long time, if not a little gross, tradition. Thousands gather to see people eat as many hot dogs as they can in 10 minutes. While you’re there, enjoy the beach, the amusement parks, and the bars and restaurants. At night, the Brooklyn Cyclones play a baseball game at MCU Field, right on the boardwalk. All tickets are $10, and there will be fireworks after the game.
There’s always the Macy’s fireworks show, which can be seen from tons of places in and around the city. Over 75,000 fireworks choreographed to a patriotic score will blast off and explode into brilliant colors and shapes, this year over the East River. For those wanting a special, VIP-type experience for these fireworks, an event company is offering an all-day party with live music, food vendors, burgers and other traditional picnic foods and multiple bar tents serving liquor and beer. The firework views will be spectacular, a front-row experience. There will be yard and novelty games like Jenga, ping-pong and chess, Time Out reports.
On the other side of the Hudson River is New Jersey’s Liberty State Park. After a state government shutdown forced the party to move to downtown Jersey City by Exchange Place, the festivities are back in the park that features a historic railroad terminal that can be explored. Rides to the Statue of Liberty are also available from the ghost terminal. The action starts at 1 p.m., and supplementing the nature and sights present will be carnival rides, food trucks, a South House beer garden and live music, according to Time Out. Fireworks above the Statue of Liberty ends the day , and from the right vantage points, the fireworks may reflect off of the big glass skyscrapers in downtown Jersey City or Manhattan’s Financial District.
Don’t count out Staten Island, which isn’t too far from Jersey City. Staten Island’s Travis neighborhood. The community puts on a special parade down Victory Boulevard, and this year marks the 108th annual Independence Day parade in the historic village. It has colonial history predating the country’s independence. This parade is the oldest continuous Independence Day.
The entire Jersey shore is loaded with fantastic events for the fourth. From fireworks to The Stone Pony to the huge resorts of Atlantic City hosting all-night parties, there’s can’t-miss action everywhere. For something in the north Jersey coast area but a little different and family friendly, try going to Freehold’s iPlay America for its annual celebration. Visitors can have unlimited ride access all day as a free inclusion just for buying a Game Card worth $10 or more. Rides include the Kite Flyer, Dizzy Dragon, Carousel, Spin Zone Bumper Cars, according to Time Out.
By: Michael Eric Rosenthal
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