Fourth of July: The Pursuit of Happiness
Author: Becca Dupps Edwards
In 1777, the Virginian Gazette described the first organized celebration of the Fourth of July with a great display of star spangled sentiments:
“Yesterday the Fourth of July, being the anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America, was celebrated in this city with a demonstration of joy and festivity…a number of toasts were drunk, all breaking independence, and a generous love of liberty, and commemorating the memories of those brave and worthy patriots who gallantly exposed their lives and fell gloriously in defence [sic] of freedom and the righteous cause of their country…every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal. Thus may the Fourth of July, that glorious and ever-memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age, till time shall be no more. Amen and amen.”
The cadence of the author’s writing reflects a pomp-and-circumstance rhythm that resounds with pageantry and patriotism. It is this “rat, tat, tum” tenor that drums up such feelings of loyalty that, as red bloodied Americans, we feel compelled to celebrate the Fourth with as much fervor and foresight as George Washington’s courageous crossing of the Delaware River.
As a result, the Fourth of July has become one of the most popular American holidays. This special day serves the dual purpose of saluting our country’s cultural heritage and making new and lasting memories as family and friends revel in the holiday’s rich traditions year after year. Just ask the champion of Fourth fanfare, Leslie Richardson.
“Everybody loves to celebrate a birthday,” Richardson said. “Since the Fourth is the birthday of our nation, no matter how busy people are in their daily lives, it marks a day to stop and celebrate. People feel the energy of the pride we have as Americans. In our family, we are very patriotic, because my husband J.R. served in the Army in the Vietnam War. We teach our children the cost of freedom. Celebrating the Fourth also marks thanking all of those that have come before us who paid so dearly for our freedom.”
Richardson believes establishing traditions such as an annual Fourth celebration has a positive impact on the family. “Events or activities that we do over and over again teach our children how important continuity is,” she explained. “In a fast, changing world, where all things new are popping up all around, traditions ground us. Annual traditions create memories, and our memories live forever.”
Many of Hilton Head Island’s original residents agree. They remember the first fateful summers that began a long legacy of sporting red, white and blue on this green and lush Lowcountry island.
Richardson was such celebrant. “John and Nelle Smith’s annual Fourth of July party was the highlight of the summer,” she said. “Everyone came in patriotic costumes. The Smiths would set up tables, and everyone would bring their favorite dish. Every year, John and Nelle would have a surprise. There would be an unveiling of John’s artwork, usually out of paper mache. From our point of view, whether his artwork was the Statue of Liberty or a political statement, we all looked forward to the big surprise. The Smith’s party was bigger than life and it would be the talk of the town for the next year.”
Richardson and her husband also contributed to the revelry. “Many years ago, John called and asked J.R. and me to organize and lead a parade from our home on South Beach Lagoon Road to the Fourth of July beach party on East Beach Lagoon. J.R. got a huge sound system set up on a rolling wagon with patriotic music. We invited all our friends, children and grandchildren who wanted to be in the parade to join in. J.R. wore a top hat and carried a giant American flag. We dressed from head to toe in red, white and blue. The other half of the party was awaiting our arrival at John and Nelle’s. This started the beach parade to the Smiths tradition. I’ll never forget all the unsuspecting faces on the beach that became automatic spectators of our parade. They seemed to have as much fun as we did.”
Another popular tradition has been held by Hudson’s on the Dock Seafood Restaurant. According to Hudson’s owner, Brian Carmines, 2007 will mark the 23rd year the restaurant has put the “fest” in festivities. The folks at Hudson’s are so fired up about the Fourth that they even established the Skull Creek Fourth of July Celebration, Inc.—a for-profit vehicle to raise funds to support and produce the event.
“The Skull Creek foundation and the support of our sponsors—Pearlstine Distributors, the Town of Hilton Head Island, Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners Association, the Country Club of Hilton Head, the Island Packet, Palmetto Electric and Pierce Lowery—enables us to put on a great show year after year,” said Carmines.
This year, the restaurant will serve up all the ingredients to a fabulous Fourth fete. “We have put together again what has been and will be the best display in the area. Everything will be computer arranged and choreographed to a musical accompaniment and simulcast on 107.9 FM. Folks seem to enjoy listening to the eclectic mix of patriotic, martial, country and rock music while watching the display,” explained Carmines.
For those Fourth of July fun lovers who also appreciate the Lowcountry’s plush and pristine environment, Hudsons also is the prefect place to get out on the water. “The raft up in Skull Creek for the Fourth is certainly one of our big traditions,” said Carmines. “I don’t know precisely how many boats go out there but it is many hundreds!”
Also keeping true to island tradition, Greg Russell will perform under the Liberty Oak Tree in Harbour Town at Sea Pines Plantation. According to Recreation Coordinator, Carlisle Brucie, special programs like hair braiding, face painting and air brush tattooing, as well as a special appearance by Albert the Alligator will be new additions this year. All the restaurants in the area will be open for service and fireworks will start at dusk.
Fourth fans who are into fitness can join in and jog the 22nd annual Firecracker 5000, the largest and oldest road race in Beaufort County. “Over 900 runners and walkers of all ages and ability from across the United States annually participate in this fun, healthy, family event,” said race coordinator, Mark Weisner, of Bearfoot Sports. “The 5K course starts and finishes behind The Mall at Shelter Cove and takes participants through the fast and flat roads around Shelter Cove Harbour. The festive post-race celebration features live music, fresh fruit, ice cold refreshments, door prizes and more. A percentage of proceeds from the event benefits two local charities: Strive to Excell and The Hilton Head Runners Club.”
Throughout the island, people, plantations and organization are also starting new traditions. For example, the South Carolina Yacht Club and Windmill Harbour community will be beginning a new tradition this July Fourth, Membership Director,Vicki Burris explained. “Residents and club members will decorate antique cars, strollers, bicycles, golf carts, and even pets for a parade around the neighborhood.” General Manager, Dana Cortes, added, “Windmill Harbour is such an active community, and we felt it was appropriate to host a fun and family-oriented event to celebrate the birth of our country while bringing the community together.”
No matter how you choose to the see the rockets red glare or the bombs bursting in air, the Fourth of July is a time-honored tradition that respects perhaps our greatest right as Americans. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, our final inalienable right is “the pursuit of happiness.” So, in the name of all those who came before us and all those good times that are sure to come, go out and enjoy yourself.
Fun Fourth Facts
1. Independence Day commemorates the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. However, it was not declared a legal holiday until 1941.
2. The first two versions of the Liberty Bell were defective and had to be melted down and recast. The third version rang every Fourth of July from 1778 to 1835, when it cracked as it was being tolled for the death of Chief Justice John Marshall. Since then, every Fourth of July, the Liberty Bell is tapped, not rung.
3. The original 13 colonies where Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.
4. One lucky Philadelphian purchased a $4 picture at a flea market only to find an original 1776 printing of the Declaration of Independence behind the picture and sold the copy to TV producer, Norman Lear, for 8.1 million.
5. Fireworks were made in China as early as the 11th century. The Chinese used their pyrotechnic mixtures for war rockets and explosives.
6. Americans are estimated to consume over 150 million hotdogs on the Fourth of July.
7. The Star-Spangled Banner is set to the tune of an English drinking song entitled, To Anacreon in Heaven.
8. Father of the country and architect of independence, George Washington, held his first public office at the tender age of 17. He continued in public service until his death in 1799.
9. In 2006, $5.3 million was the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags. Of that number, $5 million was for U.S. flags made in China.
10. Also in 2006, $1.7 million was the dollar value of U.S. flags. Trinidad and Tobago was the leading customer, purchasing $661,498 worth.