Music, Readings, and Fireworks Mark Fourth of July Celebrations
By Anne Levin
In an account recently provided by Princeton University’s Mudd Manuscript Library, July 4, 1837 was celebrated on campus “with unusual spirit.” There were cannon salutes, a ceremonial procession to the chapel, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and at least eight speeches throughout the course of the day.
While July 4, 2021 won’t include any cannons firing on the Princeton campus or close by, some celebratory activities don’t appear to have changed much in the past 184 years. Readings of the Declaration of Independence and speeches are among the events planned for the local area over the holiday weekend, along with concerts, picnics, and of course, fireworks.
The celebrations get started on Thursday, July 1 at 7 p.m. with fireworks at Rider University. The display is hosted by Lawrence Township. Visit lawrencetownship.com for details.
The Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS) celebrates America’s 245th birthday on Sunday, July 4 starting at 12 p.m. in Princeton Battlefield State Park. Following remarks by PBS President Michael Russell, there will be a flag raising ceremony accompanied by vocalist Krista Hastings, a graduate of Westminster Choir College.
Command Sergeant Major John Zimmerman of the Army 99th Readiness Group, Fort Dix, will speak about the War of Independence, the Battle of Princeton (in which one of his ancestors served), and the importance of the armed forces today. Will Krakower, the PBS historical educator, will read the Declaration of Independence. The ceremony closes with two more songs sung by Hastings, and more remarks by Russell.
Additional activities by the PBS include two tours of the battlefield. The first, at 10:30 a.m., is led by Larry Kidder, author of Revolutionary Princeton. At 1:30 p.m., Roger Williams, co-founder of TenCrucialDays.org, is the guide.
The Pennsylvania side of Washington Crossing State Park is the setting on July 4 for Living History Day, which celebrates the country’s birthday by recreating July 4, 1776. Historians will demonstrate crafts, and there will be a military encampment from 12-4 p.m. Readings of the Declaration of Independence take place at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Tickets range from $4-$8 (free for kids under age 5). Families with up to two adults and two children in the same household can buy a single ticket for $20. Visit washingtoncrossingpark.org.
On the campus of The Pennington School, 112 West Delaware Avenue in Pennington, July 4th Races for children aged 3-11 will be held starting at 9:30 a.m. Visit Penningtonboro.org/recreation.
East Windsor’s Etra Lake Park will host an event on July 4 starting at 5 p.m. Games, children’s activities, a balloon artist, and a visit from “Uncle Sam” are planned. A live magic show starts at 5:30 p.m., and music is provided by Jerry Rife’s Rhythm Kings Dixieland Jazz Band. Food trucks will be on hand. Visit East-windsor.nj.us.
Trenton Thunder hosts Uncle Sam’s Great American Family Picnic at the capital city’s Arm & Hammer Park on July 4 at 6:30 p.m. An all-you-can-eat buffet and post-game fireworks are included in the $28 ticket. Visit milb.com/Trenton.
Another fireworks display on July 4 is in Philadelphia at Benjamin Franklin Parkway, starting at 8 p.m. Gather from Eakins Oval to Logan Circle for the best views. Visit visitphilly.com.
A range of celebratory musical events are scheduled throughout the weekend. Trenton’s Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey will perform works by John Philip Sousa, Irving Berlin, Lalo Shifrin, and others at a concert Saturday, July 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Mill Hill Park. Bring chairs, blankets, and bug spray. The concert is free, but donations are accepted. Visit Capitalphilharmonic.org.
Lambertville’s Quarry Concerts presents Michael Patrick performing country/folk rock from 7-9 p.m. on July 4 at 1874 River Road. Tickets are $5. The concert is limited to 35 people, so advance registration is required. Visit Bigbeargearnj.com.
The Philly POPS plays July 3 at 7 p.m. at Philadelphia’s Mann Center. David Charles Abell conducts and Joshua Henry is vocalist in the program of patriotic favorites, show tunes, and standards, along with the debut of “Madam (Vice) President,” a march commemorating the 59th presidential inauguration. Visit Manncenter.org.
Princeton Brass Band performs July 4 from 1-2 p.m. at Old Heights Brewing Company, 123 West Ward Street, Hightstown. The Joel Zelnik Trio Jazz Brunch on July 4 is at Americana Kitchen and Bar, 359 Route 130 in East Windsor, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Songs from the Great American Songbook saluting the collaboration of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans are planned. Visit Meetup.com.
The Mercer County Symphonic Band plays on Monday, July 5 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Village Park, with fireworks planned to begin at dusk. Visit Cranburytownship.org.
Commemorations conclude on Monday, July 5 with an amended community reading of Frederick Douglass’ influential speech, delivered July 5, 1852 in Rochester, New York, to the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society. “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” is the title of the speech, in which the famed orator denounced slavery and examined the Constitution. To participate or listen, visit princetonlibrary.libnet.info.