This Sunday, July 4, marks the 245th birthday of the United States of America. John Adams, a founder and our second president, wrote of the holiday: “[It] will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

As we celebrate the anniversary of American Independence, let’s ponder on some amazing facts of our nation’s history and symbols. 

  • To start, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” our national anthem, was written by Francis Scott Key as he watched the flag still flying over Fort McHenry after a night of attacks by the British in the War of 1812. To be completely accurate, Key wrote the words. The melody assigned to these patriotic words came from a popular English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” The original song was written in 1775 by John Stafford Smith to honor the Greek poet Anacreon, who allegedly really loved wine. The song was originally performed at a London gentleman’s music and drinking club called the Anacreontic Society. It became our national anthem in 1916 by order of President Woodrow Wilson — and then was designated as such by Congress in 1931.
  • One of our other patriotic songs, “America” (My country ’tis of thee), was set to the melody of the English song, “God Save The Queen/King.” It must have truly chapped the hindquarters of Redcoat soldiers to hear those unwashed colonists sing “profane” lyrics to their national anthem! And the song “Yankee Doodle” was originally sung by British troops to mock the disheveled colonial “Yankees” — but by 1781, the song had turned from being an insult to a song of pride of the American soldiers.
  • Betsy Ross likely didn’t design any American flag — the honor of the first recognizable Stars and Stripes likely goes to Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, naval flag designer and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Several other versions of the flag were designed throughout the history of our nation, with the current 50-star flag being designed by a then-16-year-old student named Roger Heft as part of a class assignment. He used a 48-star flag, plus some blue cloth and white iron-on material. His design got a B-minus. He challenged the grade by sending his design to then-President Dwight Eisenhower. Once his design was selected, his teacher rightfully changed his grade to an A. The flag design was officially adopted in 1960.
  • American independence wasn’t actually declared on July 4. The vote to declare independence from Great Britain actually happened two days earlier, on July 2, 1776. The declaration was officially adopted and published in newspapers on July 4. And here’s a kicker: July 4 wasn’t declared a federal holiday until 1870!
  • Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both founders, died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826 — the 50th anniversary of American Independence.
  • According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (yes, there is such an organization), Americans typically will eat 150 million hot dogs on July 4. That number of tube steaks is “enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times.” Hope they don’t run out of mustard…

The City of Marathon along with the Rotary Club of Marathon are hosting an Independence Day extravaganza on Sombrero Beach. The official events begin with a parade that departs Marathon High School for Sombrero Beach at 11 a.m., opening ceremonies at noon, and afternoon music from Jade Storm unplugged (Adrienne Z and yours truly) as well as The Original Lady A Blues Band! Rotary will be selling burgers, dogs, beer, sodas and water (and commemorative T-shirts), with proceeds going to the Rotary Club’s scholarship fund.

Our Independence Day celebration is capped by the best small-town fireworks display in America — chief pyro Randy Mearns and his crew are going all out to make this year’s show the best ever! It’s a great way to celebrate our Independence, and we hope to see you there!

Catch John Wednesdays at Herbie’s, Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, Friday on Facebook Live, Saturday afternoon at Boondocks, Saturday night at the Key Colony Inn, and Sunday on Sombrero Beach for July 4. Music wherever you get your streaming or downloads. www.facebook.com/john.bartus

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