Four Great American Independence Day Events

AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann

Independence Day — the Fourth of July — is perhaps America's greatest holiday. It's one of our major national holidays that hasn't been rescheduled to a floating holiday to create three-day weekends for government workers, probably because "Independence Day" and "Fourth of July" are synonymous, and not even lazy federal bureaucrats can mess with the date that the Declaration of Independence was signed.

One of the things that Make America Great Always (see what I did there?) is the many and varied ways that we mark the Independence Day holiday. Maine and California, Florida and Alaska, our states all have their own cultures and traditions. Some of those traditions that are centered on Independence Day are, well, odd. Here, without further ado, are four of the oddest.

Seward, Nebraska's Independence Day extravaganza. For a small town (Seward boasts less than 8,000 residents), this small Nebraska town puts on a great show, including not only the obligatory fireworks but stage shows, a parade, music, and a pie-eating contest. None of these are unusual in and of themselves, but this is on a grand scale for a town this size and surely puts Seward on the 'Merica Fourth of July map. Seward's enthusiastic and ambitious celebration goes back to just after the Civil War.

Since 1868, the Seward Community has honored and celebrated the anniversary of our United States.  The first celebration was celebrated on the same town square, as today.  They men “dug a well and the women sewed an American Flag. Speeches were given and a celebration was created!”  This celebration was a high light of the City of Seward Centennial in 1967 and in 1976, Seward hosted the official July fourth for Nebraska’s Bicentennial celebration of the United States.

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Venice Beach, California; The Mr. and Mrs. Muscle Beach contest. This is 'Merica flexing at its finest. My experience with California beaches is limited, but once upon a time, a job had me maintaining a second home in the Los Angeles area for a few months, and one of my favorite activities on Saturday mornings was driving over to Ventura to watch the beach volleyball teams practice (mostly the girls.) Venice Beach would seem to have a different sort of viewing spectacle. When it comes to beaches, California seldom disappoints; their state government, on the other hand...

For decades competitors have traveled from all over the world to compete at the historic Muscle Beach Competitions. These events are highlighted by a warm friendly local atmosphere while providing quality competition.Whether you are a beginner, novice or seasoned fitness competitor, Muscle Beach has something for you. The annual competitions draws pros and amateurs.  Compete and be a part of a wonderful history.  Free for spectators.

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Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York: Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. There can be literally no more American food that can be held in one hand (leaving the other free to hold a beer) than the hot dog, except possibly the cheeseburger, and every Fourth of July, Coney Island hosts the champions of dog-eating (hot dogs, not the kind Barack Obama reportedly ate). 

Tens of thousands of spectators every year brave the unpredictable summer weather to watch the contest at the Nathan’s Famous flagship restaurant. Over time, the competition has become synonymous with the holiday and established itself as an iconic American tradition. The current record for most hot dogs eaten at a competition is 76 hot dogs, held by 16-time champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut. That’s more than the 70 franks and buns that the average American eats over the course of a year. After dethroning Takeru Kobayashi in 2007, Chestnut went on to beat his own record eight times, in less than 20 years.

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And finally: Alaska's own Glacier View Car Launch. We covered this briefly last year: Fireworks shows aren't as much fun when it doesn't really get dark (although there are some around the Great Land.) This annual event, in the unincorporated Glacier View community, which derives its name from the marvelous views of the expansive Matanuska glacier, which gives rise to the river of the same name, has found a new way to get rid of old cars — chuck them off a cliff! This event takes up a length of the Matanuska riverbank and is a lot of fun in celebration of 'Merica!

We covered this briefly last year:

See Related: An Alaska Independence Day Tradition - the Glacier View Car Huck

This year, they will be streaming the car launch live for the first time, but you'll be able to see more here in the coming days. As you read these words, I'm at this year's Glacier View Car Launch to record events personally — stay tuned.

Independence Day is important to all of us who consider ourselves American. It was the day that a bunch of colonists told the greatest empire and the greatest military power on the planet where to stick it, and when they asked us, "Or else what?" Well, we showed them the "what else." It's a day we should all be proud of, a day we should celebrate America, with all its traditions, all its cultural touchstones, and, yes, all its oddities.

Enjoy the holiday, dear readers. Whether you're flexing on the beach, pounding down hot dogs, flinging junk cars off a cliff, or just tending burgers on the grill with an ice-cold beer in your free hand, it's your day — it's all of our day. Because we're Americans, and no matter what transient problems vex us, we're still the greatest nation in the history of the earth.


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