July 4th, 2012
09:17 AM ET

Celebrating Independence Day in every way

Summer fare will sizzle on the grill and fireworks will light the night sky as America celebrates its 236th Independence Day on Wednesday.

And in Coney Island, someone will attempt to wolf down the most hot dogs, with buns, in 10 minutes for prize money and the Mustard Belt in the yearly Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.

This year, hot dog-eating records smashed

CNN is featuring a wealth of star-spangled content today, so be sure to check out our coverage:

Our series on American Exceptionalism kicked off over the weekend with rich, provocative stories that speak to myriad interests:

The power of American Exceptionalism

2012 winner must unite America on ideals

Photos: Faces of citizenship

America may not be perfect, but we love it anyway

Nationality, identity and the Pledge of Allegiance

Travel: Where to find exceptional America

Dual nationals: When one passport isn't enough

iReport: Naturalized citizens explain why they're American by choice

Eatocracy, our food blog, is serving up some themed noshing and quaffing:

As American as apple pie: The origins of our picnic favorites

Patriotic wines for the Fourth

From our Schools of Thought blog: In his 'blog' Jefferson's visionary thoughts on education

CNN Living takes a unique look at how, for children, Independence Day can be summer camp

Keep it safe while you're celebrating with these tips for fireworks safety (especially amid wicked weather and wildfires)

CNN's Political Ticker released a poll on why cookouts make July 4th sizzle

From Opinion, Michael Barnett questions is America the world's moral leader?

Enjoy this Gotta Watch video series on bizarre fireworks celebrations

One iReporter shares romance and fireworks

Entertainment's got you covered on Fourth of July TV marathons

CNN Radio follows how one author looks to honor vice presidents' history of insignificance by making Independence Day dually Vice President Day

Rich history and traditions comprise this holiday that celebrates all things red, white and blue. Here's a little background on this summer salute.


-July 4, 1776 – The Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence while meeting in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Statehouse (now Independence Hall). The Congress declared the American colonies free and independent states. (note: John Hancock signed on July 4th, the rest signed on August 2, 1776.)

-Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston comprised the committee that drafted the Declaration. Jefferson, regarded as the strongest and most eloquent writer, wrote most of the document. The committee and Congress as a whole made a total of 86 changes to Jefferson's draft.

-First two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence:

"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

Read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety.

Other facts:

-Of the $3.2 million spent on the purchase of U.S. flags, $2.8 million was spent on U.S. flags made in China. (Census)

-Of the $197.3 million spent on importing fireworks, $190.7 million was spent importing them from China. U.S exports of fireworks came to $37 million. (Census)

-The Fourth of July is the most popular holiday for grilling (81% of grill owners), followed by birthdays (67%) and Labor Day (66%). (Weber, 2010)

-The foods grilled most often are hamburgers (69%), steak (46%), chicken (42%), hot dogs (39%), and ribs (17%). (Weber, 2010)

Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest:

-The winner eats the most hot dogs and buns within 10 minutes to win prize money and the Mustard Belt.

-Takeru Kobayashi of Japan has won the most times (6).

-Joey Chestnut of San Jose, California, holds the world record for eating 68 hot dogs.

-1916 – The Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest is held at the original Nathan's Famous at Coney Island.

-2010 – Joey Chestnut wins for the fourth straight year by eating 54 hot dogs. Takeru Kobayashi, who didn't compete because of a contract dispute, is arrested while rushing the stage after the event.

-2010 – Approximately 40,000 fans watch the contest in person and 1.7 million viewers watch the live ESPN telecast.

-2011 – For the first time, men and women compete separately.

-2011 – Joey Chestnut wins his fifth consecutive Nathan's Hog Dog Eating Contest by eating 62 hot dogs. Sonya Thomas wins the women's contest by eating 40 hot dogs.

Independence Day by the numbers:

2.5 million: In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation.

313.9 million: The nation's estimated population on this July Fourth.


$3.6 million: In 2011, the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags. The vast majority of this amount ($3.3 million) was for U.S. flags made in China.

$663,071: Dollar value of U.S. flags exported in 2011. Mexico was the leading customer, purchasing $80,349 worth.

$302.7 million: Dollar value of shipments of fabricated flags, banners and similar emblems by the nation's manufacturers in 2007, according to the latest published economic census statistics.


$232.3 million: The value of fireworks imported from China in 2011, representing the bulk of all U.S. fireworks imported ($223.4 million). U.S. exports of fireworks, by comparison, came to just $15.8 million in 2011, with Australia purchasing more than any other country ($4.5 million).

$231.8 million: The value of U.S. manufacturers' shipments of fireworks and pyrotechnics (including flares, igniters, etc.) in 2007.

Patriotic-sounding locations

-Thirty-one places have “liberty” in their names. The most populous one as of April 1, 2010, was Liberty, Missouri (29,149). Iowa, with four, has more of these places than any other state: Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty and West Liberty.

-Thirty-five places have “eagle” in their names. The most populous one is Eagle Pass, Texas, with a population of 26,248.

-Eleven places have “independence” in their names. The most populous one is Independence, Missouri, with a population of 116,830.

-Nine places have “freedom” in their names. The most populous one is New Freedom, Pennsylvania., with a population of 4,464.

-One place has “patriot” in its name. Patriot, Indiana, has a population of 209.

-Five places have “America” in their names. The most populous is American Fork, Utah, with a population of 26,263.

Early presidential last names

138: Ranking of the frequency of the surname of America's first president, George Washington, among all last names tabulated in the 2000 Census. Other early presidential names that appear on the list, along with their ranking, were Adams (39), Jefferson (594), Madison (1,209) and Monroe (567).

The British are coming!

$107.1 billion: Dollar value of trade last year between the United States and the United Kingdom, making the British, our adversary in 1776, our sixth-leading trading partner today.

Fourth of July cookouts

Almost 1 in 3: The chance that the hot dogs and pork sausages consumed on the Fourth of July originated in Iowa. The Hawkeye State was home to 19.7 million hogs and pigs on March 1, 2012. This estimate represents almost one-third of the nation's estimated total. North Carolina (8.6 million) and Minnesota (7.6 million) were also homes to large numbers of pigs.

7.2 billion pounds: Total production of cattle and calves in Texas in 2011. Chances are good that the beef hot dogs, steaks and burgers on your backyard grill came from the Lone Star State, which accounted for about one-sixth of the nation's total production. And if the beef did not come from Texas, it very well may have come from Nebraska (4.6 billion pounds) or Kansas (4.0 billion pounds).

6: Number of states in which the value of broiler chicken production was estimated at $1 billion or greater between December 2010 and November 2011. There is a good chance that one of these states — Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi or Texas — is the source of your barbecued chicken.

Please Pass the Potato: Potato salad and potato chips are popular food items at Fourth of July barbecues. Approximately half of the nation's spuds were produced in Idaho or Washington state in 2011.

soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. Hamsta

    Make sure you keep in mind that Independence Day was our response to a tyrannical intrusive overtaxing overreaching expansion of government, wait a minute doesn't that describe the Obama administration?

    July 4, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick Henry

      Revolution, let's get it on!

      July 4, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • jake106

      No, it reminds me of the last fifty years of Federal government, regardless of which party was the dominant party at the time.

      July 4, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Yes, and while the Union fought to preserve our democracy and uphold modern civilization, the confederacy fought to the bitter end to maintain their unjust, inhumane and oppressive system of slavery! Now I find it ludicrous that these white supremacists are touring the country today wrapped in the American flag and calling themselves Patriots! Hypocrisy! President Obama, thank you for restoring America's trust and image and returning our nation on the path to progress and prosperity! Happy Birthday America!

    July 4, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • 666metal

      We are NOT a Democracy!!!!!!!! You cant preserve what we don't have.

      July 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    Happy 4th, everyone!
    Have a safe and happy holiday! 🙂

    July 4, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. yohanon

    Only thing I look forward too on the 4th of July to celebrate is the low prices at price shopper!{Dont make since food is this high} {All the Holiday's for that matter} Independance Day, 1776 my forfathers were in Slavery. Reality Check!

    July 4, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. yohanon

    So this country broke away from "Great britain" in war in 1776? Oreally??? before 1776 they paid a tax/tribute to the king of England/Great britain, this started with the 1st colonies. 1776 they got tired of paying the King of england! But did they really win the war?? NOPE! A deal was made which is why our taxes are so high, now we tribute the queen, they just don't tell you.

    July 4, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  6. Lyn

    My question is – why is this the ONLY day of the year we can be proud to be American? You hear stories of people getting evicted from their apartments and homes for flying the American flag, and we have to be politically correct all the time, so where's the real celebration of OUR national heritage?

    July 4, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tony

    I'm glad the article is calling today "Independence Day", and not "Fourth of July". We should be celebrating independence from government. Incidentally, taxes and regulation are much higher today than at the time of the 13 colonies.

    July 4, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Josiah

      Yes, taxes are much higher, but in 1776 we didn't have the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, or municipal police and fire departments, or public schools, or hospitals and emergency services, or... you get the picture. For what we pay, we get a lot. Some countries get more for less, but they don't have resource wars to fund, either.

      July 4, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    OooOh, mea culpa.
    Happy Independence Day, everyone!

    I'm proud to be American 365 days a year.
    No place else I'd rather live...visit, perhaps, but live?

    July 4, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. Cheryl Jefferies

    Why on earth should we be celebrating a return to SLAVERY?!

    July 4, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • 666metal

      Who is celebrating a return to Slavery? do tell.

      July 4, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Josiah

    236 years ago, the richest men in the colonies waged a propaganda campaign to convince the poor to overthrow the government so they could take their place at the top. The richest men in America then established a government in their favor, and it's been that way ever since.

    Happy "Independence Day," everybody.

    July 4, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. Gysgt

    God bless America. Don't like it here then feel free to leave, millions wish they could be Americans.

    July 4, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dad

    My kids just blew something up in the back yard. Chip off the old block. Happy 4th everyone.
    Sorry about you kids who will lose fingers this year again. But it still beats halloween when we dress you up cute and send you out talking to strangers in exchange for candy. Care for an M80 or a cherry bomb?

    July 4, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      You don't have "kids". You are just going of the beaten path to suck the life and joy out of every single thread like you always do.

      July 4, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dad

    If you don't like it here, stay anyway. Where else can an illegal person get free education, clinical health, and even sue LEGAL citizens in court but the USA?
    We have a nationwide drug abuse problem that makes for bleeding hearts when pharma junkies age, for example. Our hearts and our kids future wallets are wide open to you. Take at will, that's what we do to Africa anyway. We got it coming.

    July 4, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      Take a day off, enjoy life for once, you miserable git. Please take a moment and reflect that there are things that are beyond YOUR control.

      July 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tyler Warner

    Remember folks- patriotism means ALWAYS following what the government, the church, and society says. Don't you DARE spoil it for everyone by (gags a little) protesting or speaking out! Slavery is freedom! Ignorance is knowledge! Powerlessness is strength! Big brother (on both sides of the aisle!) is watching!

    July 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dazzle ©

    Happy Independence Day America!!

    July 4, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
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