June 28, 2006

Happy July 4th! Happy July 4th! The Rocket's Red Glare Lights Up East End

It could be argued that replacing artillery with fireworks as the main way to celebrate America's independence from the shackles of royal tyranny and bad English food made for a more visually beautiful way to celebrate July 4, but it certainly took some of the unpredictability out of equation.

The chandeliers of fireworks cascading through the night sky, the barbecues, and the flag-draped parades that will mark the holiday across the East End are about as American as apple pie when it comes to Independence Day. But in the early days of the republic, celebrations tended to be a bit more rough around the edges. In 1777, the windows of Quaker shops in Philadelphia were broken because the group didn't shutter their shops in honor of the holiday. A more festive-minded group of Philadelphians celebrated the first anniversary by drinking many toasts to liberty and independence with a group of British Army deserters. According to an account in a local paper, "Each toast was followed by a discharge of artillery and small arms, and a suitable piece of music by the Hessian band."

Revolutionary soldiers were allowed to wash some of the pain of war away with a double allowance of rum, per George Washington's orders in 1778. In 1786, the courthouse in Beaufort, North Carolina burned down when it was hit by an errant artillery shell during Independence Day celebrations.

In one of the more poignant moments in Fourth of July history, the former presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary the Declaration of Independence. "Thomas Jefferson survives," were Adams' last words, unaware his presidential compatriot had died just hours before. President James Monroe followed in their footsteps, dying on July 4, 1831.

While this year's Independence celebrations will not likely include any artillery-related accidents, there will be numerous fireworks displays and a parade to celebrate the day when Jefferson and his fellow revolutionaries declared "these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States."

Friday, June 30

Celebrate the Fourth down on Meadow Lane in Southampton. A Grucci fireworks display is set to happen around sundown at the southern end of Agawam Lake (near Cooper's Beach).

Saturday, July 1

• The East Hampton Fire Department will hold its annual fireworks show at dark on Main Beach in East Hampton. The rain date is Sunday. Call the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce at 324-0362 for more information.

• The Sag Harbor Yacht Club, will hold its annual fireworks display after dusk. The fireworks are viewable from Marine Park, waterfront areas, Havens Beach, and from the Harbor itself, if you are in your boat. For more information, call the Yacht Club at 725-0567 or the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce at 725-0011 for more information.

• The Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a fireworks show at Crescent Beach at 9 p.m. The rain date is Sunday; call the Chamber at 749-0399 for more information.

• The North Sea Fire Department will have a fireworks show after dark at Fireman's Field in North Sea, as part of the annual carnival.

• In Amagansett, fireworks presented by the Devon Yacht Club will be viewable at surrounding beaches, and are scheduled to start after 9 p.m. For more information, call the club at 267-6340.

Tuesday, July 4

The Commission on Veterans Patriotic Events will be holding its annual Fourth of July Parade in Southampton starting at 10 a.m. at the Railroad Plaza. This year's Grand Marshal is Ted J. Hoinski, a 1939 graduate of Southampton High School and a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. The theme of the parade is "Support Our Troops — Let Freedom Ring."

• In Montauk, a fireworks show designed by Grucci will burst off at 9 p.m. at Umbrella Beach. For more information, call the Montauk Chamber of Commerce at 668-2428.

• The Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons will host a Grucci fireworks show after dark over the Peconic River in downtown Riverhead. The night will kick off with a fair at 5 p.m. Call (516)-443-5084 for more information.

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