Regional celebrations of American independence


Memorial Day is in the rearview and Labor Day seems miles away. So now is the time to gear up for the 4th of July next week – our nation’s birthday, and one of its most beloved holidays.

We’ve been celebrating the day ever since 1776, when – inspired largely by Benjamin Franklin’s admonition that the delegates of the 13 original colonies hang together or they’d hang separately - the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. It was written on July 2 by Thomas Jefferson, our third president, and was formally adopted two days later, on July 4. 

At that time, John Adams, our second president, wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”

Although the first fireworks were used as early as 200 B.C., the tradition of setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July originated in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, during the first organized celebration of Independence Day. According to, a ship’s cannon fired a 13-gun salute in honor of the 13 colonies and at night a grand exhibition of fireworks beautifully illuminated the city.

Although Adams’ preference for July 2 has not stood the test of time, he was right about all the rest. For those who would rather celebrate this decidedly American holiday a lot closer to home than the streets and waterfront of the big city, several community options easily fill the bill. (Unless otherwise noted, all events take place on Tuesday, July 4.) 

Perhaps most notable is the 107th Anniversary of Chestnut Hill’s 4th of July Celebration, hosted, since 1981, by the Chestnut Hill Bocce Club (CHBC). Traditionally, the day’s festivities start at 9 a.m. with a decorated bicycle parade at the corner of Devon Street and Hartwell Lane. Prizes are awarded for the best decorations and all participants receive T-shirts. About an hour later, age-based boys’ and girls’ races (including a candy race for children 4 and under) will begin on the back fields of the Water Tower Recreation Center, with three prizes for each age group. 

Frank Hendrie, who helps organize the event for CHBC, said that a free lunch of hot dogs, juice, and ice cream for the more than 700 people expected to attend will be served after the parade. Children can also enjoy free balloons, face painting, and a magic show. Information: 215-439-2220.

Nearby, Whitemarsh Township’s Annual 4th of July Parade in Lafayette Hill will start at 10 a.m. at Barren Hill Fire Company (647 Germantown Pike) and end at 1 p.m. at Miles Park (303 Germantown Pike), the site of a community picnic with music, free hot dogs, free chicken wings from Streetside BBQ, complimentary ice coffee from Dunkin’, and beverages hosted by the Lions Club of Whitemarsh. Information: 610-828-7276.

Begun in 1904, one of the country’s oldest consecutively run 4th of July parades takes place in Glenside. The “Grand, Glorious, Patriotic Parade” (sponsored by the Greater Glenside Patriotic Association) begins at 4 p.m. and traverses a 1.5-mile stretch of downtown Glenside.

At 10 a.m. there will be a Children’s Morning Program at Renninger Memorial Park (185 S. Keswick Ave., Glenside). After dark, at Abington Junior and Senior High Schools (900 Highland Ave., Abington), look for the “America the Beautiful Aerial Fireworks Display.” Information (Parks & Recreation Office): 215-576-5213. Our second president would be most pleased.

One of the region’s biggest Independence Day events, the Annual Ambler Carnival & Fireworks (sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Ambler) runs from 6 to 10 p.m. each day from Tuesday, July 4, to Saturday, July 8, at Wissahickon High School (521 Houston Road). Fireworks begin after dark on Friday, July 7. The rain date is July 8. Information:

Another big holiday event in the area is the “Red, White and Blue BBQ Bash,” from noon to 5 p.m., at Peddler’s Village, 2400 Street Road, New Hope. The popular shopping and dining destination’s annual 4th of July festivities on the Red Barn Field include an all-American barbecue picnic along with live music, family-friendly games (including sack races, mural painting, yard darts, and a watermelon-eating contest), and special activities for children. Information: 215-794-4000.

Another decorated children’s bicycle parade, as well as food, crafts, games, entertainment, and live music, will be from noon to 5 p.m. on July 4 at Fonthill Castle, 525 E. Court St., Doylestown. Information: 215-345-0210.

Other related area events:

Conshohocken Fireworks Display will be at 9:30 p.m., Monday, July 3. Info: 610-828-1092.

Skippack 4th of July Parade & Fireworks will be at Skippack Village, Skippack (19474), July 4, with the parade starting at 11 a.m., a BBQ party at Parc Bistro, and fireworks at dusk, around 10 p.m.