Exploring The Last Green Valley – Fireworks and Celebrating Independence Day
Exploring The Last Green Valley, Fireworks and Celebrating Independence Day
There are many holiday traditions that we all enjoy throughout the year. We stay up till midnight on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the first moments of the year. We search our closets for something colored green to wear on St. Patrick’s Day, participate in Memorial Day parades, and carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. We cook turkeys on Thanksgiving and serve them with cranberry sauce. We purchase and decorate Christmas trees in December and hang stockings by the fireplace on Christmas Eve. The summertime holiday tradition that has always been popular in my house is attending our town’s fireworks display in celebration of the 4th of July – Independence Day.
According to History.com, the first time fireworks were used to celebrate July 4th was on July 8, 1776. Interestingly, speculation is that those fireworks may have been used to mock the English tradition of setting off fireworks to celebrate the birthdays of kings and queens. Lighting fireworks to celebrate the colonies’ separation from England was to some a celebration of the end of the king’s power over them. It wasn’t until the next year, July 4, 1777, that the first official July 4th celebration was held with the firing of guns, cannons, bonfires and fireworks.
July 4th was not declared an official federal holiday until 1941. It was celebrated around the country before then but in a less official capacity. With the new federal holiday, more people and towns began the tradition of using fireworks in their July 4th celebrations.
Many of the larger towns in The Last Green Valley put on Independence Day fireworks displays for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike. Some are funded by business associations, private donations, corporate sponsorships, recreation committees and collection boxes put out in town during the months leading up to the 4th of July.
Large, professionally-done firework displays cost thousands of dollars – even for smaller towns and cities. Large displays like those in Boston and New York can cost half a million dollars or more. I do love fireworks, but my slightly cynical side sometimes wonders the value of blowing up thousands of dollars in just a few minutes of celebration.
My childhood memories of July 4th revolve around visiting my grandparents in New Hampshire during the holiday. The little town where they lived didn’t have a fireworks display so instead my grandfather would buy us each a box of sparklers. I would wait in eager anticipation until it was dark enough outside and then my grandfather would light the sparklers. He reminded me several times to be careful as we waved them around in the dark to make circles of sparkling light.
I can’t remember the first time I went to a large fireworks display though by far the most spectacular was Boston’s July 4th Bicentennial celebration in 1976. With a few friends, we arrived very early at the Esplanade along the Charles River and enjoyed the Boston Pops performance followed by a huge fireworks display over the river. The Boston 4th of July celebration continues to this day.
I now live in Putnam and the town puts on a large fireworks display on the Saturday closest to the 4th of July (which just so happens to be tonight). The fireworks are in the sky over Rotary Park and located next to the Quinebaug River so the viewing lines are excellent. The evening starts with a concert in the bandstand at Rotary Park and as darkness begins to fall, the fireworks begin. If you’re thinking of going tonight, get their early, bring blankets and lawn chairs, enjoy the live music, and watch the sky light up in celebration of Independence Day.
What are your July 4th traditions? Does your town or nearby city offer a fireworks display? I hope you’ll join family, friends and fellow residents of The Last Green Valley in celebrating the birth of our country on the 4th of July.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 30 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the previous article. The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.
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