US to mark independence with hot dogs, fireworks and Covid-19 shots

Americans show no signs of cutting back on cookouts and other gatherings amid waning coronavirus pandemic

People walk along La Jolla Shores beach as Independence Day weekend nears in San Diego. AP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

At its best, July 4 is a celebration of free-spirited, liberty-loving Americana, with summertime meetups of families and friends, fireworks and hot dogs washed down with lemonade.

Yet there are downsides to holding big garden cookouts amid the waning coronavirus pandemic, and the long-standing Independence Day woe of traffic gridlock is set to return with a vengeance in 2021.

Still, the White House posted on social media that revellers have more to cheer for this year despite Covid-19, as the “cost of a Fourth of July BBQ is down from last year”, with lower grocery store prices on everything from pork chops to ice cream.

The Joe Biden administration has also announced that the annual fireworks display on the National Mall will resume at fully capacity this year following the crowd-restricted event outside the White House last year due to the pandemic.

However, it remains unclear what, if any, Covid protocols crowds will have to observe on the National Mall and there is no indication that vaccines will be required for participants to attend the event.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser joined Mr Biden in inviting Americans to attend the mass celebration. However, the annual parade in Washington is once again cancelled this year, and the concert outside Capitol Hill will be pre-recorded for television.

Ms Bowser and others criticised former president Donald Trump last year for hosting a more limited in-person celebration outside the White House that largely ignored physical distancing and other Covid precautions, as well as for an unusual military flyover featuring fighter jets. There will be no military flyover in the capital this year.

Independence Day commemorates the adoption in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence, announcing the separation of the 13 colonies from the British Empire and the founding of the United States.

Fireworks will shoot across the skies of New York, San Francisco, Boston and other cities after sundown on Sunday. Many such events were cancelled or downsized in 2020 for fear they would become Covid-19 super-spreader events.

With about half of the US population fully vaccinated and with lockdowns lifted across many states and big metropolitan areas, officials hope the virus and its virulent Delta variant will be kept under control this year.

To mark the occasion, actor Bill Pullman reprised his much-loved role from the 1996 alien invasion movie Independence Day, putting a Covid-19 spin on the movie’s iconic speech.

Americans should “gather the crew and eat veggie and meat burgers until we sweat”, Pullman says as the fictional President Thomas Whitmore in a television commercial.

“Then let’s work together to a future where everyone can come to the party,” he adds.

In a sign of national recovery, travel volumes are expected to recover close to pre-pandemic levels this year, with some 47.7 million Americans taking to the roadways and skies this weekend, the American Automobile Association said.

Children play in a fountain near a sign reading 'Freedom' in Los Angeles before the July 4 holiday. AFP

The group says this will be the second-highest Independence Day travel volume on record, trailing only 2019, with 40 per cent more Americans leaving their homes than during the July 4 weekend last year.

The association’s senior vice president, Paula Twidale, said travel was in “full swing” this summer as Americans pursued “travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half”.

They will pay for it too. Costing on average $3.12 per gallon nationwide, petrol is at its highest price in seven years.

In New York, revellers are gearing up for Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, where reigning men’s champion Joey Chestnut will defend his title for unabashed gluttony at Hudson Yards.

Meanwhile, a scaled-down replica of the Statue of Liberty has retraced the journey made over a century ago by its big sister and was this week erected on Ellis Island in New York Harbour.

Updated: July 05, 2021, 6:26 AM