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While many US cities, towns, or counties provide entertainment such as parades or fireworks, many individuals also plan special events to celebrate the Fourth of July. Some people even have their own private fireworks displays on the Fourth, in areas where fireworks are legal for individual use. Others plan get-togethers for family and friends or go to state or national parks to spend the day.
It's common for cities and towns of all sizes to hold parades and carnivals to celebrate the Fourth of July. School marching bands, members of community organizations and businesses, police officers and firefighters, local politicians, and others often walk or ride in the parades, and it can be great fun for kids. Many towns also hold fairs and festivals on the weekend nearest the Fourth, with rides, games, and fair food. Some communities hold a public reading of the Declaration of Independence as well.
Independence Day is also a good time to remember the people who fought and died defending the country and protecting its citizens. You can honor these men and women by visiting a nearby military cemetery, museum, or other memorial. These locations often hold special events on the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Veteran's Day, so it's a good idea to check with the site in advance to find out when any commemorations are taking place.
Going to see a fireworks display is one of the most common ways that people celebrate the Fourth of July. Larger cities and towns may offer the longest and most impressive displays, but the can also be crowded; attending a smaller show could give you the opportunity to get a better viewing position. Some fireworks make loud noises that may scare small children, however, so it may be better to watch from a distance if you have young ones that you're concerned about upsetting.
If you choose to set off fireworks yourself, be careful. It is illegal to buy or possess firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices in some places, so find out what the local laws are before you purchase anything. Grass and brush can get very dry during the summer, so make sure that there is nothing flammable in the area where you're setting off the fireworks, and keep a fire extinguisher, bucket of water, and/or a water hose nearby. Because all pyrotechnics can be dangerous, they should not be handled by children or anyone who has been drinking alcohol.
Some folks like to stick close to home and host a barbecue for Fourth of July. Having a cookout is a great way to spend the day enjoying good food and having fun with friends and family. Independence Day can also be a great time to host a family reunion.
If you celebrate at home, look for red, white, and blue tableware and patriotic decorations to add festive touches. You may want to make a patriotic appetizer on cocktail bread with red and white stripes made from strips of mozzarella cheese and red peppers. Red, white, and blue foods such as berries, juices, cakes, and other fun colorful snacks can also add to the holiday spirit.
Many people choose to stay indoors for the holiday and avoid the heat and the crowds. The same Fourth of July themed foods and snacks can be served just as well inside as out, and with less risk of the potato salad going bad from sitting in the sun. For entertainment, put some patriotic music on the stereo or see if a baseball game or other sporting event is on TV. The fireworks from the nation's capital are almost always broadcast, as are many local displays and parades
The Fourth of July, with its usually warm temperatures, is a popular time of year for camping out. Be sure to make reservations for your campsite in advance or there may not be a place for you. If you fear you may have waited too long, call and ask if there are any cancellations. Also ask about any special Independence Day activities the park or campgrounds may have planned, as well as how much these activities cost and if tickets are required in advance.
If you like to get out to the park or the lake but don’t really care for camping, you can always spend the Fourth of July at the beach, go for a hike, or plan a nice picnic and go back home afterward. Pack up all your favorites and bring along some items for outdoor fun such as a Frisbee®, horseshoes, or volleyball. A trip to the swimming pool can also be fun and help relieve the heat of a summer day. Be sure to bring along plenty of water or other drinks and don’t forget the sunblock.
Many cities host large celebrations, so if you live in a smaller town, the Fourth of July can be a good opportunity to take a trip and see the sights. One of the largest celebrations is in Washington DC, where a huge range of events — from parades to concerts to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall — are held. If you aren't familiar with the city, it's a good idea to do some research in advance to find out when and were different events are taking place, the best way to get there, and where to park.
Living outside of the United States doesn't mean that you have to skip the Fourth of July celebrations. You can host your own cookout or party and invite other expatriates and local friends. Check with the US embassy or consulate to see if it is hosting any events or if there are any parties in your area. If you are near a US military base, you may be able to join the celebrations there.
@Markerrag -- I agree. Sort of. I do like the idea of banning fireworks during burn bans and making it illegal to sell the more dangerous ones because, like it or not, a lot of people have gotten hurt by them over the years.
By the way, did you know that it is traditional in some parts of the South to celebrate independence on New Year's Day? That is a holdover from the War Between the States and why you will here some fireworks going off in some areas at the first of the year. It seems there are still some Southerners left who don't even want to share the Fourth of July with those invading Yankees.
Odd, but very true.
@Markerrag -- We had that idiotic law in my town for a few years (a fact a nice police officer reminded us of one Fourth of July when a neighbor ratted us out for shooting off the biggest, loudest fireworks we could find).
They changed that law two years ago and thank goodness.
It was odd. I grew up in a town where kids blew up things with cherry bombs, threw bottle rockets and went nuts on the Fourth of July. That was going too far, probably, but banning fireworks altogether was also more than a bit extreme. Perhaps we have now arrived at a happy medium. You can't buy the fireworks that can blow your arm off, but you can get plenty of other ones and it is legal to shoot them off about three days out of the year.
It is downright pitiful that some cities don't allow people to set off their own fireworks on the Fourth of July. I don't get it. On a holiday where we are supposed to celebrate freedom and independence, we've put up with municipal governments that don't trust us to set off fireworks? That may be a good, working definition of irony.