In 1776, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife saying that the signing of the Declaration of Independence should be celebrated with “pomp and parade, with [shows], games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
His wish was granted. You cannot escape the pomp and parade of the Fourth of July. Even if you’re not celebrating, you’re likely to hear the blasts of amateur and professional fireworks echoing throughout town. The spirit of the Fourth takes over the country, making people nostalgic for a slice of Americana. Independence Day is so closely tied to fireworks that the American Pyrotechnics Association has a countdown on its website marking the days, hours, minutes and seconds until midnight of the Fourth hits.
But the other non-fireworks shenanigans Adams requested remain an important aspect. We continue to love the pomp, the sports, the – bells? Alright, maybe the bells have fallen by the wayside now. Across the country, Americans have put their own spin on the festivities, making the holiday weirder and more wonderful every year.
Here are some of the most unique ways to celebrate the Fourth this year beyond your standard fireworks show.
– – – Bet on lobster races in Bar Harbor, Maine
Maine is known across Earth as a lobster paradise. It’s a place with its own lobster institute, lobster festival and lobsterman statue. It should come as no surprise that Maine also has a lobster race. The contest has been going on since 1978 as part of a fundraiser for the Mount Desert Island YMCA. Race attendees can place bets on the Parsons’ lobster contender of their choice and watch as the crustaceans crawl through a Plexiglas tank to the finish line.
– – – Welcome new American citizens in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Considering New Hampshire was recently ranked America’s most patriotic state, it makes sense that it hosts one of the most American Fourth of July celebrations in the country. Portsmouth’s 10-acre Strawbery Banke Museum celebrates Independence Day with a naturalization ceremony for more than 100 new citizens from more than 30 nations. The marquee event is just part of the week-long programming the museum hosts to celebrate American lives past and present.
– – – See Willie Nelson and friends in Austin
Willie. Nelson. What else do we need to say? The man is a legend. Willie Hugh Nelson is so American that in 1975, the Texas Senate declared July 4 to be Willie Nelson Day in the Lone Star State. The country star has been hosting Wille Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic in the capital city since 1973. This year the event’s 46th iteration will be at the Circuit of the Americas and feature additional musical talent like Luke Combs, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and Alison Krauss.
– – – Take in the golf cart parade in Catalina Island, California
The humble golf cart is usually reserved for courses, retirement communities, resort grounds and ranches. On Fourth of July on Catalina Island, however, they become the center of attention, thanks to the annual Golf Cart Parade along Crescent Avenue in the city of Avalon. The University of Southern California’s Trojan Marching Band ferries over from Los Angeles to serenade parade viewers throughout the day and night. Festivities include a beach barbecue, dock cookout, Catalina Island Yacht Club Avalon Dinghy Parade and live music.
– – – Run up a mountain in Seward, Alaska
Fireworks aren’t really a big deal if you’re in south-central Alaska, where the midnight sun reigns supreme. Instead of focusing on light shows, Seward residents have been hosting one of America’s oldest races every Independence Day: Founded in 1915, the Mount Marathon Race draws elite runners who take on a course that spans 3,000 feet in elevation. Said to be the toughest 5K on the planet, the race is so difficult that spectators climb the mountain course to give snacks and words of encouragement to participants.
– – – Cheer on lumberjacks in State College, Pennsylvania
It’s a rare occasion that BMX bikers, lumberjacks and mechanical-bull riders come together for one event. Fortunately for the X-Games-loving, plaid-shirt-wearing bovine enthusiast, there’s the Central PA 4th Fest in State College. Independence Day here is a big buffet of American activities, including, but not limited to, ax-throwing, free hot dogs, foot races, roller derby entertainment and a big community parade.