After the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Founding Father John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that the date “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” For the last 236 years, Americans have taken that directive to heart.
This Wednesday, towns and cities across Oklahoma will host celebrations to honor their nation's big day, complete with fireworks extravaganzas, hometown parades and family picnics that would make John Adams proud.
Here are just a few suggestions to help you “solemnize” the Fourth of July.
LibertyFest — Edmond
Named by CNN and USA Today as one of the top 10 July Fourth festivals in the United States, Edmond's LibertyFest, with various events around Edmond, reaches the pinnacle of patriotic. This year marks LibertyFest's 40th anniversary of offering a weeklong salute to America's birthday. You still have time to make the Kite Fest, rodeo and road rally Sunday and will want to start scoping out the perfect spot for the parade and fireworks on Wednesday, when more than 120,000 patriots are expected to join the festivities. For more information, go online to www.libertyfest.org.
Tulsa FreedomFest — Tulsa
A Tulsa tradition since 1976, FreedomFest features one of Oklahoma's largest free fireworks displays and live music at three entertainment locations along the banks of the Arkansas River. Activities during the day include old-fashioned family picnics, bicycle parades and plenty of fun for the kids. At nightfall, fireworks choreographed to music are launched from the city's 21st Street bridge overlooking the river. For more information, go online to www.riverparks.org/freedomfest.
Oklahoma City — Red, White & Boom and Bricktown Fireworks Extravaganza
To get into the spirit a little early, join the Oklahoma City Philharmonic at State Fair Park, 333 Gordon Cooper Blvd, on Tuesday for an evening of patriotic music during the annual Red, White & Boom celebration. The outdoor concert will feature conductor Joel Levine and soloist Susan Powell. The following night, Oklahoma City's Bricktown Fireworks Extravaganza begins at 9:30 p.m. at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, 2 South Mickey Mantle Drive.
Freedom Fest — Yukon
Yukon does it up right with a children's parade, classic car show, cherry bomb triathlon and sand volleyball tournament throughout the day. Chisholm Trail Park, 500 W Vandament, Yukon, provides the venue for evening events with free watermelon, ice cream and a live performance by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic as fireworks light up the sky.
Blackberry Festival — McLoud
Three words — cobbler eating contest. Since the 1940s, McCloud has been exulting this delectable berry and lays claim to one of the oldest Fourth of July celebrations in the state. Held Friday and Saturday this year at Veterans Park, McLoud, the Blackberry Festival includes a blackberry baking contest and a Blackberry Queen competition, among other events at Veterans Park, McLoud.
Watermelon Seed Spittin' World Championship — Pauls Valley
Held for more than 50 years and featured in Trivial Pursuit, the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley's Believe It or Not, the Watermelon Seed Spittin' World Championship in Pauls Valley is serious business. The record to beat was set by Jack Dietz of Chicago in 1989 when he launched a seed 66 feet 11 inches. Registration begins at 6 p.m. in the football stadium at Wacker Park for aspiring spitters. If you'd rather keep your seeds to yourself, there is still plenty to enjoy with a cookout, live music and fireworks display.
July 4 Games — Pawnee
Pawnee's party offers a trip back to simpler times with turtle races, horseshoe tournament, bubble gum blowing contests and water balloon fights. Held on the lawn of the historic Pawnee County Courthouse in Pawnee, revelers will try their luck at tossing eggs and boots compete in sack races and a tug of war. Fireworks at dusk are planned at Pawnee Lake.
Duck Creek Fireworks — Ketchum
This popular event delivers plenty of pleasant sensory overloads along the shores of Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma. The day culminates in a much-celebrated boat parade along Duck Creek with the floating entries lit to the hilt. A War Bird flyover planned at dusk and fireworks synchronized to patriotic music over the lake at nightfall round out the experience.
Boomer Blast — Stillwater
This multiple-day happening is more than a patriotic celebration. In addition to the traditional fireworks show at dusk, Boomer Blast includes a water sports extravaganza on the city's Boomer Lake with wakeboard competition throughout the day. More than 250 athletes, including members of the Oklahoma State University and University of Oklahoma wakeboard teams, are expected to compete to win the title of state champion.
For more information on Fourth of July events and activities to do throughout Oklahoma, go online to NewsOK.com or to www.TravelOK.com.
Pantlik is with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.