Special holidays are made even more special up at Put-in-Bay. On this Fourth of July, our national day of independence, the island’s businesses and partners come together to sponsor one of the best fireworks displays on all of Lake Erie. Traditionally, the fireworks are always held on the exact date of July 4th, light rain or shine. If the weather is really foul, it may be delayed a day or two or until the weekend.
The rockets are launched from a barge towed out into the middle of the Bay and the best viewing locations are always on the Perry’s Victory lawn and along the seawall. For a little more creature comfort, find a seat (VERY early!) at the Boardwalk or The Keys. Music from the Perry’s Visitor Center accompanies the beautiful display.
It is just a short walk or a quick golf cart ride from your favorite Put-in-Bay condos or cottages, and an even quicker walk from the downtown hotels like Commodore Resort!
A Short and Sweet History of Independence Day
By the middle of the 1700s, the 13 colonies that made up part of England’s empire in the New World were finding it difficult to be ruled by a king 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. They were tired of the taxes imposed upon them. But independence was a gradual and painful process. The colonists could not forget that they were British citizens and that they owed allegiance to King George III.
A “tea party” and a “Massacre” were two events that hurried destiny. Along with general unrest, these events united the colonists. In 1767 a tea company in India, owned by England, was losing money. To save the company, England levied a tax on tea sold in the colonies in 1773. Partly as a joke, Samuel Adams and other Bostonians dressed up as Indians and dumped a cargo of the India Company Tea into the Massachusetts Bay.
King George III did not think it was funny, nor did he lift the tax on tea. In the Boston harbor, British soldiers were jeered and stoned by colonists who thought the soldiers had been sent to watch them. The soldiers fired into the crowd and killed a few citizens. The colonists exaggerated the number killed and called it a massacre.
The Start of Independence
The State of Virginia took the first step toward independence by voting to set up a committee to represent the colonies. This First Continental Congress met in September of 1774. They drew up a list of grievances against the crown which became the first draft of a document that would formally separate the colonies from England. George Washington took command of the Continental Army and began fighting the British in Massachusetts. For the next eight years, colonists fought fervently in the Revolutionary War.
Independence Day is celebrated on July 4 because that is the day when the Continental Congress adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. From July 8, 1776, until the next month, the document was read publicly and people celebrated whenever they heard it. The next year, in Philadelphia, bells rang and ships fired guns, candles and firecrackers were lighted. But the War of Independence dragged on until 1783, and in that year, Independence Day was made an official holiday. 1941 Congress declared the Fourth of July as a federal holiday.
John Adams Founded the Celebration
John Adams, a lawyer, the first Vice President and the Second President of the United States, was one of the members of the Second Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence. He wrote to his wife, “I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other”
John Adams may have predicted the later Independence Day celebrations or perhaps he started traditions with his words. Every July fourth, Americans have a holiday from work. Communities have day-long picnics with favorite foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, baked beans and all the fixings. The afternoon activities would not be complete without lively music, a friendly baseball game, three-legged races and a pie-eating or watermelon-eating contest.
Some cities have parades with people dressed as the original founding fathers who march in parades to the music of high school bands. At dusk, people in towns and cities gather to watch the fireworks display. Wherever Americans are around the globe, they will get together for a traditional 4th of July celebration!
Fireworks & the Liberty Bell
New Castle, Pennsylvania, is home to the Vitale Fireworks Display Company, responsible for more than one thousand fireworks shows every year. In 1922 Constantino Vitale brought his expertise at making fireworks from Italy to the United States. He passed his secrets on to his four sons, and since then the company has been making Americans exclaim “ooohhh” and “aaahhhh” at the lighted colors in the sky on July 4 and other occasions.
The sight and sound of a ringing bell represents freedom to most Americans because of the Liberty Bell that rang in Philadelphia when the new country was born. In 1752 the new bell arrived safely from England, but at the first blow from a hammer to test it, it cracked. Not wanting to delay by returning the bell to England, the officials ordered bell founders in Philadelphia to remedy the fault. Two times it was recast before it was finally ready.