Breaking From The Usual On The Fourth Of July

By Elijah Bates
Summer Guide
americafest Breaking From The Usual On The Fourth Of July

(Photo Credit: Steve Grayson/WireImage)

Basking beneath a collective glimmer of starlight and moon, a crowd begins to gather around the Cayocos Pier. Each person waits patiently for the celebration to begin. Young and old, they peer into the sky, scanning anxiously for the first sight of fire, as seaweed laps up along the shoreline and touches their toes. Then suddenly — KABOOM!

Every year, hundreds of onlookers, tourist and local alike, make their way to this tiny spot on the Central Coast of California for a chance to live out a classic Fourth of July moment. Many are coming for the first time; others have sat in that same spot 50 times before. It’s an experience not altogether different countywide, whether over a football field in Odessa, or high in the misty skies of Nantucket.

And that’s nothing to sell short either. After all, fireworks on the Fourth is about as American as it gets. Seeing the night sky light up with color as though the heavens were raining down has been, and hopefully always will be, a spectacle worth scaling nearby rooftops and gathering in extremely crowded public places to see.

But make no mistake, the local fireworks show will happen next year, and the year after. So rather than relying on the old standard yet again, perhaps this can be the year to break out from the comfort zone, step over the county line and seek out another great city’s Independence Day celebration. From sea to shining sea, the United States is full of them.

americafest 2 Breaking From The Usual On The Fourth Of July

(Photo Credit: Steve Grayson/WireImage)

Pasadena, California

Americafest. By the name alone, this Southern California specialty sounds about as infused with red, white and blue as an event can get, albeit a little predictable. Even so, on the Fourth of July, predictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing; sometimes, giant-sized sparklers are all people really need. And there’s no better place to experience such an American classic than at “America’s Stadium.” The Rose Bowl in Pasadena lauds itself as having the area’s biggest fireworks show. Given its proximity to Disneyland, Orange County and the Santa Monica Coastline, it’s a bold statement to make, one Americafest has strived to live up to for 86 years and running.

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Warren, Vermont

At first sight of their parade, it may initially look (and sound) as though the people of the Mad River Valley have indeed gone mad. This is likely due to the imposed $300 limit per float, or perhaps the “eco rules” theme prompting residents to paint themselves green and sing their own new Fourth of July songs. The city of Warren can seem a bit eccentric on Independence Day. To that tune, it’s undeniably a town worth checking out, if only because their songs won’t be hitting the Top 40 anytime soon.

boston harborfest Breaking From The Usual On The Fourth Of July

(Photo Credit: Boston Harborfest)

Boston, Massachusetts

Of course, leaving the country, especially during such an American holiday, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For a stark opposite, one of the most patriotic events takes place near the site of the original Boston Tea Party. Stretching over the entire week preceding July 4, the Boston Harborfest serves as a showcase to honor the colonial and maritime heritage of the American Revolution. With over 200 daily events in and around Boston’s historic downtown, there’s absolutely something for everyone. Included in this mix is Chowderfest, a competition between Boston-area restaurants for the best New England-style clam chowder.

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Atlanta, Georgia

Each year, thousands of observers line the sidewalks for Atlanta’s July 4th tradition, the Peachtree Road Race. What began as a simple run in 1970 has since evolved into a televised event steeped in Atlanta’s culture. Growing from 110 participants initially to an estimated 60,000 in 2012, the race pulls in a wide variety of people vying for a spot. Some serious runners, others costumed characters, they all push to finish and receive an official t-shirt, which serves as a status symbol within the Peach State. Only those who complete the race get one.

Rebild Bakker, Denmark

Most countries throughout the world have set days where they commemorate their own independence. But rarely does another country take time to celebrate America’s. However, such is the case at Rebild Bakker National Park in Denmark, where the world’s largest July 4th gathering outside of the United States takes place. Celebrating its centennial this year, the festival began as a way for Danish Americans to meet with loved ones they left behind in Denmark. And to this day, it still brings in tens of thousands of people, including keynote speakers from both countries (past attendees include kings, queens, presidents… even Walt Disney).

Every spot on the map has got its own unique way to celebrate the Fourth of July — how does your city do it? Leave a message down below and tell us what makes your city’s celebration unique!

Check out the Summer Guide at CBS Local.

When he’s not pumping out pieces for CBS Local, Elijah Bates provides creative direction for a social media company in Venice Beach. Otherwise, you’ll find him surfing up and down the California coast, evading stingrays like trips to the dentist.

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