When you think of the 4th of July here in the United States, what comes to mind, fireworks? It does for me too. Our day starts off with the food prep for the family pot-luck with staples such as Potato Salad and Broccoli Pea Salad. Then the family arrives to play games, tell stories and kick back for the afternoon while the kids play. Come nightfall, fireworks are going off in every direction from most houses on the block.
But how the 4th of July began is a whole different story, not involving fireworks that we know of today. The 4th is the nickname we have given the true holiday “Independence Day.” You may recall learning as a kid in school about the Declaration of Independence. In a super short cliff note style what happened was: On July 4, 1776, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, enabled the American Colonies to be free from British rule. Their motto “No more taxation without representation” became real.
Since there was no such thing as Twitter or the internet, news traveled slow. By July 6th copies of the Declaration of Independence were in the hands of the American Colonies. Then on July 8, 1776, the first public reading was performed, followed by the ringing of the bells and music. Sadly no fireworks as we know them today. But perhaps they shot off their guns and cannons, to celebrate this great day.
Fireworks were part of the celebration, one year later on July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia. There were even bonfires, bells ringing and Congress adjourned to participate in the festivities.
However, fireworks and celebrating July 4th were not common until 35 years later, when the War of 1812 with Britain ended. Fireworks and celebrating independence continued for 58 years, before Congress recognized Independence Day as a holiday in America. Some 60-years later, July 4th became a federal holiday in 1938.
Fast forward to 2019, a lot has changed. Around most of the United States fireworks are either banned or restricted to ground only displays. Making the new norm, where families go out to watch company sponsored fireworks at public events and locations.
National Parks – 4th of July
Besides your local city or town public fireworks events, you have other options such as some National Parks. This can be the best of both worlds. Allowing you to explore the park by day and at night see a colorful fireworks show. Here are some National Parks that host grand displays of fireworks every 4th:
- Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
- Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, St. Augustine, Florida
- Nation’s Capital National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C.
- New York City Liberty Island, Ellis Island, Grand Ferry Park, and East River State Park, New York
Federal Land Firework Fines
Be very careful if you go onto any Federal Land and attempt to shoot off fireworks, any time of the year, include the 4th of July. There are heavy penalties of up to $5,000 for an individual and up to 6 months imprisonment. Read HERE for more info.
We all know that most Federal Land, often called Public Land, is open to us for recreational activities. Some examples of Federal Lands that you may recognize are the Bureau of Land Management (BML), United States National Park System (NPS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). To learn more about each Federal department, click HERE.
For those of you that love land statistics, or not, did you know that there are around 610-MILLION acres of public land held by 4 federal agencies? I had no idea and when I looked further into the easy to read chart, some other info equally amazed me. So check out REI’s blog to learn more.
Know Before You Go
The majority of campgrounds will not allow you to shoot off fireworks without a fine. And since July can be hot and dry in many parts of the US, the open flame restrictions may also be in place. Be sure to check out the US Forest Service website before your next outing.
Headed to a different State for the 4th of July? Each State, County, and Town have different regulations for fireworks. You can easily find out what fireworks, if any, are allowed by calling the Visitor Center. Just a reminder that the Visitor Center is often closed on Federal Holidays so be sure to call before the 4th.
With all those warnings out of the way, share in the comments below what your plans are for the 4th of July. What traditions do you have? For us, we are eager to start exploring other areas of the US to see how they celebrate Independence Day.
Thanks for reading and we will see you on our next Adventure!
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