We often overlook small town American traditions and focus on festivals in big, bustling cities. But if you take a closer look you'll see that many anonymous, tiny American towns boast some of the nation's longest-standing traditions. Here are nine small towns across the states that celebrate Independence Day with some of their very own unique traditions. In addition to your standard fireworks spectacle and parade, these little towns offer a special twist or two in honor of America's birthday.
Independence day is a big deal in the small town of Bristol, Rhode Island, located in the center of the Ocean State between Providence and Newport. The enclave boasts "America's oldest 4th of July celebration." Since the annual celebration began in 1785, this July 4 will mark its 228th consecutive year. The festivities include fireworks, the annual celebration — "the oldest in the country," a parade, a Drum and Bugle Corps competition and concerts. The town even hosts an annual Fourth of July ball in an outdoor tent with tickets for the event priced at $85 per person.
This mountain resort city in Eastern Tennessee celebrates America's birthday with a fireworks spectacle and bustling parade that it calls "the first July Fourth parade in the nation." Each year, the small town expects about 100,000 participants and attendees. The celebration honors female war veterans and other Americans who have served their country from the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. In addition to the parade, Gatlinburg also hosts a "River Raft Regatta" on the local Little Pigeon River, after which judges award prizes to the most creative and impressive rafts. There are also live concerts for the crowd to attend free of charge.
Let the name of this tiny Californian town — the County seat of Inyo County — speak for itself. Independence, Calif., hosts an annual celebratory day filled with activities for all ages. The town's population is small, but everyone gets involved in the festivities, which include a flag raising ceremony, pancake breakfast, 4K run, arts and crafts show, July 4 parade, pie and ice cream social, BBQ and last but certainly not least, a fireworks show.
Allegan County, Michigan does most of its Independence Day celebrating in advance with the "July 3 Jubilee." Throughout the day there are "activities and games, inflatable activities, pony rides and Drummunity rhythmic fun for all ages" along with musical performances and fireworks by the Kalamazoo River. Dorr township, located in Allegan, boasts an especially unique lineup of events including an ox roast and BBQ, baseball and softball games, a volleyball tournament, talent competitions, live music, tractor rides, a Chinese lantern launch, community flea market and a bean bag race.
Bar Harbor, Maine, home of Acadia National Park is a popular New England summer destination that offers locals and tourists lots of activities to celebrate July 4. Beginning at 6 a.m. with a pancake breakfast, the town hosts a craft fair at the local YMCA, an Independence Day parade in the heart of Bar Harbor, outdoor concerts and fireworks. But what is a celebration in Maine without some fresh Maine lobster? Bar Harbor also celebrates the nation's birthday by throwing a seafood festival and lobster races.
Despite its reputation as a winter ski resort destination, Telluride is also home to one of America's best kept Independence Day secrets. The first event is the annual Fireman’s Parade on the town's historic Main Street, characterized by displays of patriotic costumes, floats and performances. The town also hosts a community-wide BBQ with a slip n' slide and pie-eating contest. At night, visitors can watch the fireworks show light up the sky from the top of the gondola. All events take place in front of the backdrop of the scenic San Juan mountains, allowing tourists to take in America the beautiful.
Forget the traditional parade and fireworks routine. Maplewood, N.J. offers both festivities and then some! The town spices up your standard fourth of July celebration by putting on The Zerbini Family Circus for the town to enjoy. The circus features a trapeze and acrobatics, clown acts and even elephant performances and is definitely a unique way of celebrating America's special day. The day also features various competitions including relay races, a pet awards show, an ice cream eating contest and a pie-baking showdown.
It might not come as a surprise that Saratoga, New York, one of America's most historic battle sights during the War for Independence hosts an impressive July 4 celebration. In addition to a parade, firework, BBQ, car show, face-painting, carousel rides and other children's activities, the small down boasts its historic roots. Learn about the country's history with live reenactors from America's beginnings and listen to a live reading of the Declaration of Independence.
The town of Bisbee, located Southeast of Tucson, Ariz., knows how to shake things up for Independence Day. Bisbee has attracted visitors on the Fourth of July since 1914 when the town began its annual tradition, the Bisbee Coaster Race. The race is " gravity-powered, for-youths-only," and is followed by a "hard rock mining and mucking" competition to pay homage to the town's old mining roots.