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How to Celebrate like a Local this Fourth of July!

How to celebrate like a local - go to a reading of the Declaration of Independence

The Fourth of July or Independence Day is not only historically important, it is also one of the biggest and most fun holidays of the year. This blog post begins with a brief introduction to the history of the Fourth of July. After that, we look at how to celebrate Independence Day. Finally, and most importantly, we give you information about some of the exciting activities going on around New York, like the Macy’s Fireworks display or the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating contest. There is so much to do and see on July 4th and this blog post will help you to make the most of it.

How it all began

Way back on June 7, 1776, a man called Richard Henry Lee, a politician from Virginia presented a resolution to the Continental Congress (this was a meeting of representatives of the various settlements in British-America). The resolution suggested that the United Colonies should become independent states. In other words, the people living in British-America should cut ties with Britain and become their own country.

This started a chain of important events. First of all, the colonies selected a special committee of 5 men to discuss independence. These men were John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R, Livingston and Thomas Jefferson. These men each had roles within this committee. Thomas Jefferson was given a job of writing a declaration of independence.

On July 1, 1776, the Continent al Congress came together to review the work of the special committee. The discussion of the declaration and the making the large number of changes (86 in total) took quite a long time. Congress worked through July 3 and part of July 4th. Finally, in the afternoon of July 4th the Declaration of Independence was finished and formally adopted.  In other words, the 13 Colonies declared independence from England – an act that eventually led to the formation of the united states.

As you can imagine, summer 1776 was a time to celebrate! After declaring independence from Britain, the colonists held concerts, bonfires, parades, fired cannons and muskets (a type of gun) and even held mock funerals for King George III to symbolize the end of British domination. July 1776 also saw the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence, a tradition that continues until today!

Another traditional way to celebrate Independence Day is the lighting of fireworks. The first use of fireworks on the Fourth of July is believed to have been in 1777!

This period of American history was quite an uneasy time. There were many wars and battles. People only began properly celebrating the Fourth of July after the War of 1812. Finally, in 1870 Independence Day became a federal holiday but it was not until 1941 that it became a paid day off work.

How to Celebrate Independence Day in 2019

Over the years, Independence Day has changed. The Fourth of July has become primarily a celebration of patriotism. In fact, the symbol of the holiday is the American flag, which can be seen everywhere from clothing and accessories to themed food and drinks. Today, Independence Day is a time for barbeques and enjoying the outdoors. Not to mention parades, sports and spectacular fireworks shows. In fact, there are around 15,000 official fireworks displays in the US on and around the Fourth of July. Luckily for Zoni students, you can celebrate Independence Day by watching the largest fireworks display in the United States right here in New York! This year the fireworks will be set off from the Brooklyn Bridge. More about this in the section below.

As we just mentioned, Independence Day is a day for barbequing! You can buy tickets to various grill parties held around the city. However, most people choose to grill in their own yards or at the park in one of the designated grill areas.

Ever wondered what to grill for a tradition fourth of July barbeque? The most popular grill item is actually the hotdog! It is estimated that on the Fourth of July, 150 million hot dogs are consumed. If you were to line these 150 million hotdogs up end-on-end it would measure the distance between Washington DC and Los Angeles 5 times! That is a crazy number of hot dogs! Talking about hotdogs, each year on the fourth of July, Nathan’s Famous hosts the International Hotdog Eating Contest in Coney Island. More on this crazy fourth of July tradition shortly.

Fourth of July Activities

There are literally hundreds of fun activities you can take part in on the Fourth of July. In this section we will look at a couple of the most fun things to do.

Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show

This year’s theme is “A Celebration of American Cinema”. The show will bring music from films to life both before and during the fireworks display. The fireworks will be set off to traditional songs such as “America the Beautiful” and “Stars & Stripes Forever,” as well as to music from Star Wars, Superman, E.T. and Casablanca.  Award winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson will also sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the classic American film, The Wizard of Oz.

Although there are a number of view-parties where you can buy a ticket for dinner, music and a view of the fireworks show, there are also many places where you can watch the fireworks for absolutely free. Head on down towards Lower Manhattan or Dumbo for the best views or find a spot in the Southern part of the Lower East Side near FDR Drive. Official viewing spots have limited capacity, so please make sure you get there nice and early. More information about where to watch the fireworks can be found here.


Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest

It is claimed by Nathan’s that the first ever hot dog eating contest to take place at their stand was on July 04, 1916. Four immigrants got into an argument over who was the most patriotic. In the end they decided that whoever could eat the most hotdogs in 10 minutes would win the argument. Although without much proof to back up this story, it is most likely a nice story made up by Nathan’s.  In truth, the first Nathan’s Famous annual hot dog eating contest was held in 1972 and has been held every year since.

The current world record is 74 hotdogs with buns in 10 minutes and is held by Joey Chestnut. The contest itself is exciting, crazy and a little bit disgusting but it is definitely worth seeing once in your life!

To get to Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs catch the D, F, N or Q trains to Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue. From there it is just a short walk.


Independence Day Fun Facts

  • The original Declaration of Independence still exists! It is kept in the National Archive
  • It is said that John Adams believed that Independence Day should be celebrated on July 2nd, and would refuse invitations for celebrations on July 4th in protest
  • John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence