When it comes to the Fourth of July, it seems festivities, food and fireworks come to mind.

The federal holiday is celebrated because it marks the ratification of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The document, which was penned by Thomas Jefferson with assistance by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman, details the reasons the 13 American colonies severed their ties with Great Britain. It was an act of war, and by signing it the 56 men risked their lives, fortunes and honor.

The remarkable document has stood the test of time — 243 years — and this section is often cited in discussions about human rights: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

It's not every day you get to see the American dream on display, but we saw it upclose when we witnessed the July 4 naturalization ceremony for a friend. Every year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services marks Independence Day by conducting naturalization ceremonies across the country. We attended the event at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul. 

I am the descendent of immigrants who came to this country from England, Wales and Germanic Europe. At one time, my family stood where these new Americans are now standing. Like them, we were once strangers in a new land with the hope of a better life.

America has always been the land of opportunity. Watching men and women of all races and nationalities recite the oath of citizenship is a moving experience. It is something we assume as our birthright, but it should never be taken for granted.

Food makes the Fourth

We celebrated our friend's citizenship with an old-fashioned picnic and a fancy cake. 

A picnic with family and friends is a longtime tradition. In addition to serving favorites such as hamburgers, hotdogs, brats, homemade potato salad, baked beans, chips and dip, Special K bars and strawberry shortcake, you could also count on birthday cake. We have four birthdays from June 30-July 3. 

For those who have a knack for decoration, there are plenty of red, white and blue recipes to serve on the Fourth. You can add whipped cream, blueberries, strawberries and/or raspberries to cocktails, cookies, fruit salad, yogurt, cake, cupcakes, cheesecake, Jell-O, pie and ice cream. 

When I asked folks on social media what their favorite Fourth of July food is, I received lots of replies:

  • steak topped with grilled onion and mushrooms
  • burgers on the grill, fruit, potato salad and a cold drink
  • ribs
  • smoked ribeye
  • grilled anything
  • grilled, old-fashioned hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad and watermelon
  • steak
  • watermelon for sure, and burgers and brats
  • fresh fruit salad, tuna macaroni salad and a fresh hamburger patty
  • gotta have a big 'ol cold watermelon on the Fourth
  • Typically brats or burgers. Gonna make, probably, mushroom Swiss burgers
  • hamburgers, hot dogs, beans, coleslaw, potato salad and watermelon
  • pollo asado with mollejas and archerra with rice and charro beans, modelos on the side
  • barbecue ribs, potato salad with hard-boiled egg, sweet corn, twice-baked beans and rhubarb dessert
  • homemade ice cream, hand cranked, with everyone taking a turn
  • fish fry with potato salad, baked beans, chips, watermelon and Special K bars (the potato salad and baked beans are homemade of course!)
  • probably something easy, sloppy joes
  • fish fry
  • grilled burgers, fruit pizza, chips and iced tea
  • brats, calico bean hotdish, fresh fruit and rhubarb torte
  • brats on the grill, wouldn't have it any other way

What are your Fourth of July food traditions? 

Nothing in Hutchinson?

It seems to come up every year: Why isn't there a Fourth of July celebration in Hutchinson?

For many years, there was.

For instance, in 1916, the Fourth was celebrated with a band concert, streets sports and a ball game. It was the first time the parade featured decorated automobiles and auto floats. The huge fireworks show planned by the riverbank did not materialize because the fireworks did not arrive in time. 

America celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1926. Hutchinson hosted an industrial parade, which attracted 25,000 spectators. Festivities also included a patriotic address, a kiddie parade, fireworks and a dance at the armory. 

During the "Dirty Thirties," as the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s were sometimes called, local observances of Independence Day were canceled in 1931, 1937 and 1939. 

The Hutchinson Junior Chamber of Commerce wanted to put the city on the map, so it launched a one-day summer festival on June 22, 1941. It was known as Water Carnival. There was no Fourth of July observance that year.

In 1942, a combined Water Carnival/Fourth of July celebration took place July 3-5 at the McLeod County Fairgrounds. 

Due to the war and its aftermath, there was no celebration in 1945 or 1946. In 1947, the Water Carnival took place June 28-29. From then on, Hutchinson celebrated Water Carnival rather than the Fourth of July. 

Fireworks on the Fourth

While there isn't a parade or fireworks in town on the Fourth, you can observe Independence Day in nearby communities. Here's a list of parades and fireworks:

  • Annandale’s 130th annual Fourth of July features a parade at 10 a.m. The parade route begins at Poplar Avenue to Cherry Street, Oak Avenue and Park Street (State Highway 24). Fireworks are shot off at dusk at Annandale Municipal Park; annandale4thofjuly.org.
  • Chanhassen's 36th annual Fourth of July celebration features a parade at 2:30 p.m. The route starts on West 78th Street and Chan View and follows Kerber, Santa Vera Drive, Laredo and ends on Chan View. Fireworks are at 10 p.m. at Lake Ann Park; ci.chanhassen.mn.us.
  • Billed as the state's oldest Fourth of July celebration, Delano’s first Independence Day observance was on July 4, 1857. This year, celebrate with a parade at 10:30 a.m. The parade route starts at the intersection of Wright County Road 30 and River Street. The parade route goes south to Railroad Avenue, east to Second Street North, north to Elm Avenue, and east to the Tiger Drive intersection. A 27-minute fireworks show takes place at the end of the festival at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 6; delano4th.com.
  • Excelsior Fourth of July features its Water Street Kids' Parade at 11 a.m. Fireworks are at dusk on Lake Minnetonka; excelsior-lakeminnetonkachamber.com.
  • High Island Lake Conservation Club in New Auburn is observing the Fourth of July with a car/truck/bike show, burgers, brats and ice cream, build a squirrel house, bingo and fireworks at dusk. For more information, visit the High Island Lake Conservation Club’s Facebook page.
  • Red, Hot & Boom! in Mankato is 7-10 p.m. and features live music and fireworks at 10 p.m. This event is at the Vetter Stone Amphitheater, 310 Rock St. W. Admission is free; 507-385-6660.
  • Minneapolis Red, White & Boom features music, movie, family events and fireworks at dusk along the downtown Minneapolis Riverfront; minneapolisparks.org.
  • New Ulm doesn't have fireworks, but it does have Fourth of July in the Park, which features music 11 a.m.-6 p.m. by Dain's Dutchmen, Schell's Hobo Band, Wendinger Band and Alpensterne at Turner Hall, 102 State St. S. The rain-or-shine event also features a new Kids Tent with sidewalk chalk, stories, facepainting and more. For more information, visit the event's Facebook page.
  • Spicer’s Fourth of July festivities feature the Grand Day Parade at 10 a.m. Hutchinson Jaycee Water Carnival royalty are participating in this event. The parade route follows Lake Avenue. The fireworks show starts at 10 p.m. at Saulsbury Beach. The best place to watch the show is from a boat on Green Lake; willmarlakesarea.com.
  • St. Cloud’s 73rd annual Fourth of July fireworks takes place at 10 p.m. For best viewing, visit Wilson and Hester parks, and along Fifth Avenue North. The St. Cloud Municipal Band plays its annual Independence Day Concert at 8:30 p.m. in Hester Park. There are fun and educational activities for kids of all ages, and food vendors in both Hester and Wilson Parks starting at 2 p.m.; stcloudfireworks.org.
  • Waconia Fireworks Festival is at dusk. Fireworks are launched from Lake Waconia Regional Park; destinationwaconia.org.
  • Watercade in Litchfield is hosting a fireworks show at dusk on Friday, July 12, over Lake Ripley; watercade.com.

For more Minnesota fireworks shows, visit Explore Minnesota at bit.ly/2X31U4o.

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