How to Celebrate the 4th!

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The only genuine American holiday is the 4th of July. On this day Americans commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It is a special day to celebrate our freedom from British rule. But it is how we choose to celebrate that sets Americans apart from the rest of the world.

Fireworks are a classic 4th of July tradition. Many cities and towns put on elaborate fireworks shows, often accompanied by patriotic music and community events. These events draw thousands and every face in the crowd has a smile.

Many Americans celebrate the 4th with family and friends by hosting or attending backyard BBQs and picnics. These gatherings often feature grilled foods, cold drinks, and lawn games like horseshoes and badminton. For the children in many families, the 4th of July is the only time they get to see Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue.

Many cities and towns host patriotic parades, often featuring marching bands, floats, and groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, veteran’s fraternities, and community service organizations.  

July 4th seems to be “commencement day” for a summer of great times. We all like beach vacations, family reunions, music festivals, historic reenactments, and outdoor adventures like hiking, camping, or biking. Whatever you prefer – fireworks or quiet reflections on freedom and liberty, there’s something for everyone on this special day.

But what if you like fence painting? Is there something for the guy who loves to whitewash broad board fences? Sure, there is, just head over to Hannibal, Missouri. The story goes like this:

Tom Sawyer by Norman Rockwell

The sun was shining brightly on Hannibal, Missouri, as Tom Sawyer, the mischievous and adventurous young boy from Mark Twain’s classic novel, gathered his friends to host the most outlandish event of the day, the whitewashing of the fence at Aunt Polly’s house. You remember that Tom was a master of getting out of chores, had managed to talk his friends into helping him with the task. Jim Hawkins, Becky Thatcher, and Huckleberry Finn all showed up with their own unique skills and attitudes. Jim brought his famous catfish cooking skills, Becky brought her impressive painting skills, and Huck brought his… well, Huck just brought his enthusiasm.

As they went to work on the fence, Tom regaled his friends with tales of adventure and bravery. He painted swashbuckling pirates on one section, mythical creatures on another, and even a giant American flag that stretched across the entire length of the fence. Becky worked her magic on a section of patriotic flowers and animals, while Huck added his own special touch with some strategically placed handprints.

As they finished up and stepped back to admire their handiwork, the group let out a collective “Wow!” The fence was transformed into a masterpiece of colorful fun and American spirit. And as they celebrated their hard work with a giant picnic feast, Tom Sawyer declared it the best Fourth of July celebration Hannibal had ever seen.

Oh, I’m sorry you thought the story was the one told by Mark Twain in his 1876 novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. That’s a good story but the one I told you above happened at the annual 4th of July Fence Painting Festival in Hannibal, Missouri, a few years ago.

If you would like to participate in the next festival, you can register online.

Tom Sawyer’s Fence, Hannibal, Missouri


Fence painting on the 4th of July may be fun but what about throwing marshmallows at your friends and family on Ocean Beach in San Diego, California at the annual Marshmallow Fight at 9 PM every 4th of July.

There’s a story there, too! The 4th of July Marshmallow Fight in San Diego is a much-loved tradition that has delighted crowds for decades. The quirky celebration is a must-attend at least once in everyone’s life.

The Marshmallow Fight began in the 1970s, when a group of friends decided to host a small gathering on the beach to celebrate the nation’s birthday. The event was reported in the local newspaper and the following year, twice as many people appeared on the beach at 9 PM to throw marshmallows at each other. Over time, the event grew, attracting thousands from all over America.

The fight itself is a free-for-all. Marshmallows fly in every direction as participants of all ages enjoy their sugary war. In 2018, the youngest known participant was 3 years old, the eldest was 97, and he claimed to be present at the very first battle!). The goal is simple, hit your friends and family with as many marshmallows as possible while avoiding getting hit yourself.

 Among the participants are groups of friends who plan their summer vacation around the big fight. They will often spend days leading up to the event, gathering marshmallows from grocery stores as far away as New Mexico and Utah. Some store owners claim they sell-out of marshmallows by the middle of June.

Some participants have even taken their love for marshmallow fighting to new heights by creating elaborate contraptions to launch their marshmallows into the air. Some of the homemade catapults, many fashioned from PVC pipes, can launch up to a dozen at a time. The ones propelled by compressed air can send a marshmallow over a quarter-of-a-mile.

The San Diego Marshmallow Fight is an experience unlike any other. It’s a fun and lighthearted way to celebrate Independence Day. It is mayhem at its best.

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I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in seventh-grade English class.

Love the idea of a marshmallow fight. Might suggest this for our next church outdoor picnic!!

My handy postcard holder that I found on eBay.

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