With backyard barbecues and fireworks thundering across night skies, Pine Bluff, Jefferson County and the rest of America celebrated Independence Day Wednesday by participating in time-honored traditions that express pride in their country’s 242nd birthday.
But this quintessential American holiday was also marked with a sense of a United States divided for some — evidenced by competing televised events in the nation’s capital.
From New York to California, July Fourth festivities were at times lively and lighthearted, with Macy’s July Fourth fireworks and Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest.
In our own community, a fireworks show was held at Regional Park, and several neighborhoods held small gatherings to celebrate Independence Day.
Joshua Turner of Pine Bluff said he smoked three briskets for the occasion.
“Man, this is what it’s about,” Turner said. “We live in the greatest nation in the world, I have great family and great food. What more could a man ask for?”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Preamble, Declaration of Independence
The day’s events were also stately and traditional, with parades lining streets across the country and the world’s oldest commissioned warship firing a 21-gun salute to mark the 242 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
For some Western states, however, the holiday was a bit more muted as high wildfire danger forces communities to cancel fireworks displays.
The country’s longest-running live national July Fourth television tradition is PBS’ broadcast of music and fireworks from the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn. But it faced new counterprogramming this year from the White House, which hosted its own concert and view of the National Park Service’s fireworks show.
PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth” had the bigger stars, including The Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, Pentatonix, Chita Rivera, Luke Combs and The Temptations. It was hosted by John Stamos.
The entertainers on the 90-minute White House event that aired on the Hallmark Channel included singer-songwriter Sara Evans, pianist Lola Astanova and two former “American Idol” finalists. Both shows included the fireworks display from the National Park Service.
First lady Melania Trump said in a statement that the White House show would allow Americans to “tune in from their homes and be part of the festivities.” PBS declined to comment.
This was the first Fourth of July that many people were able to call themselves U.S. citizens after participating in naturalization ceremonies across the country.
In New Hampshire, more than 100 people from 48 countries became U.S. citizens during a ceremony at the Strawbery Banke museum in Portsmouth as part of the museum’s annual “American Celebration.” A ceremony was also held aboard the USS New Jersey, where dozens of people from countries including Vietnam and Bangladesh were sworn in.
Across the U.S., the new citizens pledged allegiance to a country where some people lament that the ability to debate respectfully the toughest issues of the day seems hopelessly lost.
For Brad Messier, a chef in Portland, Maine, the holiday “seems to illustrate the glaring divides that we have.” He asked: “How much does going and seeing fireworks really bring people together?”
But in rural Shelby County, Alabama, retired truck driver Floyd Champion said he views these as the best of times in America.
“I love the holiday because it’s our independence,” he said.
Back in Jefferson County, Wabbaseka resident Truvy Davis said that she would like to see politics sat aside for a while so that “America can get back to its roots. There is just so much mess going on right now. We are all Americans, we all want the same things. We want to be healthy and happy and have a good future for our kids.”