By Randy Gaddo
Over time, the original significance of historical events can be blurred by passage of time and contemporary perspectives. Such is perhaps the case with the Fourth of July.
There are a multitude of events celebrating the day in Baldwin County, as will be detailed later in this column; however, the origin of the celebration is often lost on celebrators who can get focused on the hotdogs, hamburgers, family-friendly festivals and fireworks instead of Independence Day.
The basic freedoms that some American citizens today may take for granted were not automatically conferred to the original colonists and the framers of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, those basic rights were at the center of the debate whether or not to split with England.
When initial battles of the Revolutionary War were fought in early 1775, many colonists didn’t think breaking with Britain was the best idea and those who did were considered radical. However, as Britain imposed more restrictions and taxes on colonial residents and eventually inflicted armed control using their army and navy, the movement towards independence gained momentum.
In early 1776, British-born colonial transplant Thomas Paine published the iconic pamphlet entitled “Common Sense” in which he promoted revolutionary ideas, according to a History.com article. A pamphlet at that time might be compared to a blog today; pamphlets were an effective way of quickly disseminating ideas. Paine’s “Common Sense,” pamphlet first published (originally anonymously) in January 1776, quickly sold out its first thousand printed copies and by the end of the year sold 150,000 copies, an amazing number at that time. It remains in print today.
The ideas in Common Sense obviously struck a nerve and can be credited with influencing colonists to mount an armed revolution against England. A government representative of the majority of people it serves was considered more favorably than a monarchy.
When the Continental Congress met at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on June 7, 1776, Virginia’s delegate Richard Henry Lee called for colonial independence. After heated debate, Congress appointed a five-member committee to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Britain.
The Congress voted on July 2 in favor of Lee’s formal resolution for independence (largely written by Thomas Jefferson), which some argued was the actual day that should be celebrated; however, July 4 is the day Congress formally adopted what they called the Declaration of Independence.
As representatives from the original 13 colonies gathered in Philadelphia late on the afternoon of July 4th, 1776 to sign the Declaration of Independence, it is said that President of the Continental Congress John Hancock signed his name with a great flourish, saying he did it, “So that (England’s) King George can read that without spectacles.”
Since then Americans have celebrated their unique shared heritage just as the second President John Adams suggested in a July 3, 1776 letter to his wife, with, “Pomp and parade, with shews (shows), games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
Following is a summary of some celebrations from one end of Baldwin County to the other:
• July 3, The Wharf, Orange Beach, free admission, starts 5 p.m. with music, games, food, fireworks at 8:45 p.m. Visit www.alwharf.com for information.
• July 3, Bay Minette Rotary Club fireworks show, this year at a new location due to construction of new school! Moved to the just-opened Sports Complex at 1310 W. 13th Street. Parking available at the complex and the parking lots at Bay Minette Middle and Baldwin County High schools. Kelly’s Canteen will be open at the sports complex and school groups will be selling water and watermelon in the BCHS student parking area. Call 251-580-1625 for information.
• July 4, Gulf Shores public beach, starts 5:30 p.m., free admission, arrive early for free parking at Gulf State Park Lake Shelby, city-wide, live music, food trucks, fireworks start 9 p.m., visit www.gulfshoresal.gov for information.
• July 4, At OWA in Foley, free admission to Downtown OWA all day with food and live music from 4 – 8:30 p.m. Family-friendly activities, inflatables inside the park from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Fireworks show timed to music over Lake OWA at 8:45 p.m., viewable from anywhere in the park. Call 251-923-2111 for information or www.visitowa.com
• July 4, The city of Fairhope hosts its annual concert and fireworks at the Fairhope Municipal Pier. Baldwin Pops Band begins at 7 p.m. in Henry George Park with special guests Alabama 151st Army Band playing a variety of patriotic music before and during the fireworks, which begins approximately at 9 p.m. Parking: north end of Fairhope Municipal Park opened throughout the day until it is full. The south end of the beach front park and Knoll Park will be available for spectators. Limited handicap parking available near the fountain; arrive early and plan to stay until the fireworks are over. This is an alcohol-free event and no personal fireworks are permitted. Call 251-929-1466 for more information.
• July 4, city of Daphne; kid-friendly games and fireworks, from 5-9 p.m. at Al Trione Sport Complex, 8600 Whispering Pines Road. Waterslides, inflatables, games, free concessions, hosted by Daphne Parks and Recreation. Call 251-625-3705 for more information.
The author retired after 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, followed by 15 years as a municipal director before becoming a freelance writer. He is now a frequent contributor to the Baldwin Edition of Lagniappe.
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