Wherever you live in the United States, the July 4th holiday celebration has some pretty common threads. I would imagine that most of us remember parades, patriotic music, family picnics, and fireworks. But, if you grew up anywhere along the coasts of our country, you may recall, like I do, that the holiday also included a trek to the beach. Hot dogs skewered on unbent coat hangers over a bonfire, followed by S’mores, with the marshmallows perfectly toasted, and the chocolate melting all over your fingers! Mmmmmm! And, I can almost feel the sand between my toes and that cool chill as the sun started to set and the fog crept in off the Pacific Ocean. Even on these sweltering Dallas days (and nights), those memories warm my heart.<--break->
So, what else about this holiday makes it so special? Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, as the day is more commonly called, is a federal holiday that commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. By proclaiming our independence from Great Britain, our Founding Fathers established the colonies as “free and independent states.” But, you probably remember all this from those history classes you took all those years ago. What you might not know are some of these “fun facts” that I found on the Internet:
• Most people think that the Declaration was signed by “a bunch of old guys.” Not necessarily true! Benjamin Franklin was the oldest signer at 70, but the youngest (Edward Rutledge) was just 26. The average age of the 56 signers was 45.
• Believe it or not, nearly 2.5 million people lived in the newly independent nation in 1776. Compare that to the 309.6 million that live here today.
• In 2009, the U.S. imported $217 million worth of fireworks from China—that must have made for some spectacular displays!
• The Hot Dog Eating contest at New York’s Coney Island was first held in 1916, reportedly as a way to settle a dispute between four immigrants to determine who was the most patriotic.
• Speaking of hot dogs, the chance that your holiday hot dogs or pork sausages originated in Iowa are greater than one in four. In fact, the Hawkeye State is home to nearly 19 million hogs and pigs, which is more than one-fourth of the nation’s total.
• Hamburgers or grilled steaks, anyone? Well, Texas gets the nod for having the highest total production of cattle/calves in our country, followed by Nebraska and Kansas.
• The odds are in favor of your potato salad or chips originating in Idaho and Washington State; those fresh tomato slices beginning their journey to your table from California; and those delicious, cold watermelons coming to a paper plate near you from Florida.
Although it isn’t listed in any of the holiday facts I found on the Internet, I suppose I need to give a very small, personal shout-out to Hershey, Pennsylvania for contributing to my messy-melty-marshmallow-laden childhood recollection of my favorite beach treat. On a far more important note, another fact that requires no research is that each of the states that make up our country contribute to the common good of all our citizens, and that on this day when our existence as a free nation began, we can all celebrate July 4th in our own unique ways, creating memories of our own that will last a lifetime.