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. John

    Every year through legislation in Washington and especially this one and the last bonehead presidents, we are becoming less free. Free? Liars! We are not free anymore. Face it!

    July 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. indy

    Yes, the very most independant thinkers think they are either democrats or republicans, while more closely resembling resembling Captain Blackbeard's parot.

    July 4, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. indy

    Boosh is good man. Boosh is good man. Squawk.

    July 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Evan

    Are we truly independent? Maybe from Great Britain but I'm pretty sure we are dependent on a few other countries in the world.....anyone venture to guess who I am referring to? Anyone think we should stop celebrating Independence Day until we are truly independent in all ways (economically being the 800lb gorilla)?

    July 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Know Your History

      When the US can produce the goods cheaper than China, or become less dependent of foreign oil and implement other sources for energy...perhaps. Still wouldn't want to live anywhere else. There's the border. See your way out.

      July 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gracias!

    Uno questionnes por favor.
    Under Obamacare, is still ok por anchor baby borned at emergency room? OK me pay no pesos?

    July 4, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evan

      No pesos........just dolores! Nothing is free, sorry.....

      July 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gracias!

    Dos questionnes. Does Obamacare workers comp. cover illegal workers illegally employed and injured on de jyob? Under new law, who pays?

    July 4, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rascal Rabble

    happy birthday 'merica !

    July 4, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Know Your History

    Why? Thinking of posting something scandalous?

    July 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Shelly

    watched an hour of CNN Independence Day coverage and saw story about eating hot dogs and on Atlanta run – how about something about activities in Philadelphia at Independence Hall?

    July 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hamsta

    @ know your history, no because I posted the historical fact that Indepence Day was America's response to tyrannical, intrusive, oppressive, over reaching, and over taxing government and after pointing out the fact that obama represents exactly that cnn deleted my comment.

    July 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. NPhxAz

    Independence Day happened to be my favorite holiday as a kid. It is a somber reflection. We are at the end of our reign.

    July 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. So Patriotic!

    I think we Americans should thank Iran for helping us to celebrate the 4th of July. Although some of us will spend a few dollars on rockets that explode for show; Iran has spent millions for the same reason.

    Nice work Iran, please do it again next year too.

    July 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. "British" Monarch Mr. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

    Now I do say what Independance? We still own you pathetic flag waving Neanderthals! Now go back to watching TV and worshiping our family, like the peasants you are.

    July 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • NPhxAz

      Don't flatter yourself.... Nobody worships your family.

      July 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jesus

    Hey! Don't forget to celebrate for those 100,000+ Iraqi civilians you killed when you invaded their Country like Nazi Germany! HOW MANY "9/11's" is 100,000? Oh, that's right- you're American! You CAN'T do the Math!!! Ha! Ha!

    July 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bishop Hairy Palms

    You can thank Bush for that Skippy. Speaking of Bush how many times did you vote for him?

    July 4, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian Monosso

      I have never voted because both parties are corrupt. We need to band together and form a new Government, then send our troops to Washington and for everyone out.

      July 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      No offense meant to you, Brian, but if you don't vote, you have no right whatsoever to comment on the political climate in the US.

      July 5, 2012 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
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