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Enjoying a cold one is an American tradition on July 4.
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updated 7/3/2007 2:15:05 PM ET 2007-07-03T18:15:05

Flag waving must make people hungry. This year Americans will spend over $275 million on hamburgers and hot dogs as they celebrate their nation's Independence. Add in buns, beer and all manner of snacks, and Fourth of July celebrations will set Americans back $2.5 billion.

Sure, the Fourth falls on a Wednesday this year, but don't expect the midweek timing to put a damper on the celebration. According to the National Retail Federation's 2007 Independence Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey (conducted by BIGresearch, a consumer research firm based in Worthington, Ohio), 88.5 percent of Americans will partake in the holiday festivities this year, up slightly from the 87 percent who joined in last year.

"It’s the all-American thing to do," says Pam Goodfellow, an analyst with BIGresearch. "The weather is nice, and it’s a good reason to get together with your family and friends."

The first organized Fourth of July observance was celebrated in 1777 in Philadelphia. Most of the elements of future Fourths were already in place, including parades, parties and fireworks. Music was provided by a band composed of Hessian prisoners of war, captured by George Washington's troops at the Battle of Trenton some six months earlier. Over the years, more Independence Day traditions accrued, including baseball games, hot dogs and ice cream. Some traditions, such as listening to speeches and reading the Declaration aloud, gradually withered.

Today, there's no better — or at least more popular — way to celebrate than with a barbecue. The NRF estimates 61 percent of partygoers will partake in a cookout, complete with burgers, dogs and booze. Poised to benefit: food and drink suppliers like Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch. After all, the nation will spend $1.1 billion on food and another $429 million on drink this Independence Day, says BIGresearch.

And of course, you can't barbecue without a fire. Americans will spend $274.2 million this year on charcoal and lighter fluid for their grills, according to BIGresearch.

Other festive ways to toast the Fourth: fireworks and parades. Forty-three percent of Americans will enjoy a fireworks display this year, while 10 percent will take in a parade.

Americans will decorate to show their spirit as well. The NRF estimates 61 percent of the nation has American flags to wave, and 28 percent have Independence Day decorations. Another 45 percent more have July Fourth garb (think flag shirts or festive hats) in their closets.

Even though the holiday falls in the middle of the work week, traveling should remain a popular option, too. According to the American Automobile Association, 41.1 million Americans will get away this Independence Day, up slightly from the 40.8 million who traveled last year.

In fact, so many Americans are unwilling to forgo their traditional Independence Day plans that they've opted to take off a few more days of work to do so, according the AAA. Thirty-eight percent of July Fourth travelers hit the road last Friday, making a week-long trip out of the holiday. They may end up in cities like New York, Houston or Nashville, where party-planners are competing to host the most spectacular displays and attract the most visitors.

But wherever they're held, good parties don't come cheap. Here's how Americans will spend some of their Independence Day dollars.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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