The Fourth of July is the biggest holiday in the United States. Parades march down Main Street, picnic baskets overflow, families come together, and in the evening, fireworks light the sky.
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Fireworks sparkle over city parks and public beaches. Rockets climb far above government monuments. Pinwheels light the Western sky. Roman candles line riverbanks.
The biggest, best and most moving fireworks displays are those that light up the skies over the Charles River in Boston, the East River in New York, the Mall in Washington, D.C., the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada, and in Kaboom Town, Addison, Texas.
Boston's Fourth of July, Boston, Mass.:
Boston's Fourth of July has long been viewed as the premier pyrotechnic experience among America's Fourth of July celebrations. The celebration's present format was inspired by David Mugar, a local philanthropist, in 1973. He suggested jazzing up the Boston Pops Orchestra July Fourth concert on the Esplanade by playing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture accompanied by cannons and fireworks. Thus, a tradition was born.
Today hundreds of thousands of people come from across the country to the banks of the Charles River to celebrate America's birthday. The music is broadcast on TV and radio allowing citizens across the city to enjoy the fireworks that are choreographed to the Boston Pops music. The fireworks show includes more than 10,000 shells and devices with more than 17,500 pounds of pyrotechnics.
Macy's Fireworks Spectacular, New York, N.Y.:
This is the nation's biggest birthday fireworks display. It lights up the night sky over the East River at 9 p.m. with more than 120,000 bursts of color and light and 30,000 aerial shells from around the world. Fireboats shoot streams of red, white and blue water 300 feet over the river.
The display is launched from just off 34th Street. The music for this event is broadcast on NBC and WINS radio that play specially recorded musical accompaniment. The FDR Drive is packed with revelers, the Brooklyn bank of the river is thronged and the East River fills with boats of all shapes and sizes south of the major bridges.
Fireworks on the Mall, Washington, D.C.:
This amazing pyrotechnic production, with its picturesque backdrop of the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument, is a vivid tribute to our great nation and the most powerful city in the world. This tradition started more than 200 years ago when Thomas Jefferson hosted the first official Fourth of July celebration at the presidential mansion.
A parade, complete with Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force bands, local marching groups, VIPs and floats marches up 10 blocks of Constitution Avenue beside the Mall. As darkness falls, the National Symphony Orchestra strikes up on the West Lawn of the Capitol and other performers fill the night with music and then, just after 9 p.m., the first rocket begins a massive fireworks display. The music and the fireworks are broadcast across the country on PBS.
Lights on the Lake , Lake Tahoe, Nev.
South Shore's spectacular Fourth of July fireworks celebration takes place in one of the most wondrous natural settings in the world. This is a real family affair and one of the country's best pyrotechnic displays. Set to music, the fireworks program is one of the largest and most incredible displays west of the Mississippi. Launched from an offshore barge, the fireworks are visible around most of the lake, and include a simultaneous music broadcast.
The sandy south shore beaches, docks and lakeshore hotels and casinos are packed with viewers and the lake's paddlewheelers do phenomenal business on this holiday. A simultaneous music broadcast of contemporary songs is played on local stations while rockets burst in a tapestry of color high over the shimmering lake and the surrounding mountains.
Other smaller fireworks displays take place all around Lake Tahoe from Tahoe City to Kings Beach to Squaw Valley.
Go 4th on the River, New Orleans, La.:
The New Orleans Riverfront puts on a powerful and unique display of fireworks for its annual Go 4th on the River Dueling Barges Fireworks Extravaganza. This one-of-a-kind dueling barges fireworks display lights up the sky over the mighty Mississippi, creating a symphony in the sky.
The local radio stations broadcast old-time, classic patriotic songs and modern all-American music that accompanies the colorful rockets as they streak across the sky and explode in fantasy colors. The levees are packed with spectators and the riverboats are filled with partyers celebrating the country's birthday. In the best New Orleans tradition, the holiday is celebrated with wonderful jambalaya, gumbo and jazz.
Kaboom Town!, Addison, Texas:
For nearly 20 years, Addison's Kaboom Town! has been the benchmark for Independence Day fireworks for the Lone Star State. The dramatic show takes place on July 3rd this year. It is an annual tradition for more than 100,000 viewers each year. Since its inception in 1983, this show has been choreographed and executed by Royce Trout and his pyrotechnic experts at Atlas Enterprises.
The fireworks include a specially synchronized, computer-fired array of fireworks from around the globe. The fireworks and choreography make it a unique experience for North Texans. This year's show will be the largest display of fireworks in North Texas, and the choreographed fireworks synchronized to a simulcast will be visible from miles around.
These displays are only a starting point. Other extraordinary displays take place in Philadelphia, Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis.
Charles Leocha is nationally-recognized expert on saving money and the publisher of Tripso. He is also the Boston-based author of "SkiSnowboard America & Canada." E-mail him or visit his Web site. Want to sound off about one of his columns? Try visiting Leocha's forum.