Fourth of July: Why this Independence Day will be unlike any other

For millions of Americans, celebrating 4 July comes with certain rituals and traditions.

Parades, public fireworks displays and large family reunions are some of the most popular ways Americans mark the nation’s independence from Britain in 1776.

But this year is set to look a little different. Here’s why.

1) Cancelled parades
Sadly, it looks like the floats will have to stay in the garage this year.

Cities around the US have cancelled their annual parades as cases of coronavirus continue to rise. The National Independence Day Parade in Washington DC is the highest-profile casualty.

“Covid-19 infection levels will not be abated to the degree that it would be safe,” its organisers said in a rather downcast statement.

But others have approached things with a more creative touch.

In the small town of Montgomery, Ohio, there’s set to be a “reverse parade” where motorists will drive past a stationary show featuring the usual marching band, stilt walkers and floats.

Either way, we’re unlikely to see the kind of showpiece events that we’re used to. There’s always next year, at least.

2) Secret fireworks
Fireworks displays are synonymous with Independence Day and – while a raft of events have been cancelled – it’s not all bad news.

Some organisers have come up with ingenious ways to ensure they can still go ahead without crowds gathering to watch.

In New York, the Macy’s Fireworks Show is being held over a series of nights at unspecified locations and times. Each show will last for just five minutes to avoid crowds being able to gather.

Other cities, such as Boston and Houston, are encouraging people to watch the fireworks from home on TV or online. Which brings us nicely onto…

3) …virtual events
It’s fair to say this pandemic has pushed a lot of people to do more online, and that appears to include celebrating Independence Day.

A huge number of events will be streamed online so they can be enjoyed safely at home.

The Capitol Fourth concert in Washington DC is one of the most well-known. This year, it was pre-recorded in “iconic locations across the country” and will be shown both online and on TV.

And in Los Angeles, an arts centre is set to host an “online block party” with music and other performances being shown live on Facebook. Plenty of other cities are planning to livestream concerts of their own.

Oh, and one of the quirkier Independence Day traditions – Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest – is still going ahead with various Covid-19 precautions in place.

The century-old competition will be shown on TV where it’s previously attracted almost two million viewers. Some traditions are sacred, after all.

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