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. NPhxAz

    Tough when these cnn guys try to celebrate something that they have openly tried to denigrate- and the citizenry snubs everything about all of it.

    July 4, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. laserman59

    What a good man we have in the White House. I am so proud of our President. He stands with us people. Romney
    stands with corporations. The difference has never been clearer.

    July 4, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • 2tor

      You're blinded by your emotions. He doesn't stand for anyone but himself, and his own grandiose ego.

      July 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sgt. Slaughterhouse

    Good thing giant corporations only employ 20% of our workforce then. Imaghine if we depended on major corpprations the way we depend on small business. We would REALLY be screwed then.

    July 4, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sgt. Slaughterhouse

    Really. Imagine spending your life beholding to a giant corpopration that views you as a number. Ya might as well join the army!

    July 4, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • SWF

      Good thing I have my own business so I can fire phoney baloneys like you.

      July 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. noj

    San Diego Archdiocese, inc. filed for chapter 11 bankrupcy protection after discovering they didn't have the 3.5 million dollars promised boy raype victims families.
    The Vatican. Meanwhile, the 'holy see' Pope, leader of the world's unincorporated Archdiocese, buys a pair of 5,000 dollar bedroom slippers. (ea. Archdiocese is individually incorpporated, or we would give the pontifs slippers to a boy)

    July 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • noj no no

      Happy 4th, you bloody curmudgeon!

      July 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tucsand

    Happy fourth of July everyone. Its stormy and rainy weather here in Tucson but were celebrating our freedom not the weather 🙂

    July 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      You are probably a troll and not able to spell the city where you claim to be from. Not a drop of rain came out of the sky until 3pm AZ time. I hope you live on the west side of the city where funnel clouds and massive sheets of rain fell. Those of us in the foothills now have to deal with flooding in the arroyos and the potential for not being able to drive more than a half mile come morning.

      July 5, 2012 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. Greg Finnigan

    I am most grateful this Independence Day for Will Smith for saving planet earth.

    July 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. White Older Base

    Who? OK. What?
    How do you expect old folks to understand our healthcare system when they can't even keep their own meds straight?

    July 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Base Older White

      Ya taking some yourself, are you?

      July 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tucsand

    As much as it has been raining here lately if I see a large boat go by with animals paired around it, I'm heading for higher ground 🙂 giggle

    July 4, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bobcat (in a hat)©

    Father William, the old priest, made it a practice to visit the parish school one day a week. He walked into the 4th grade class, where the children were studying the states, and asked them how many states they could name. They came up with about 40 names. Father William jokingly told them that in his day students knew the names of all the states.

    One lad raised his hand and said, ‘Yes sir, but in those days there were only 13 states.

    July 4, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • tucsand

      not bad at 4th grade probably better than a lot of adults 🙂

      July 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • SWF

      Cute joke... To: tucsand, true!!!

      July 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. 2tor

    Actually there's a lot to be sad for in America this year. While we celebrate our independence from the Brittish Empire, we need to be thinking about our independence from a our own repressive government. We've lost so many rights and liberties in the last decade, it's incredulous. We've tried to rewrite the moral fabric of our society, and there appears to be no end of it. we're now an extremely divided country, and our future isn't bright.

    July 4, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      look you anarchist...leftover slim from the french revolution...hater of church and moral conscience...libertine of political chaos...God Bless America, the cornerstone of our Glory who statue and decrees are the foundations of our society and source of our prosperity...Viva Cristo Rey!

      Lift High The Cross Hymn


      Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim,
      Till all the world adore His sacred Name.

      Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
      The hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.


      Each newborn servant of the Crucified
      Bears on the brow the seal of Him Who died.


      O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
      As Thou hast promised, draw the world to Thee.


      So shall our song of triumph ever be:
      Praise to the Crucified for victory.


      July 4, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mark

    Its funny how we celebrate independence and freedom. My question is freedom from what? The people are shackled by the corporations who tell the politicians what to do, and then give them kickbacks when they agree. Their very motive is to bleed you dry and make them rich. Freedom is illusory.

    July 4, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. That Guy

    Today we celebrate freedom from England's rule. Hopefully one day soon we can celebrate freedom from energy dependence, poverty and hatred.

    July 4, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. nc1965

    "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
    -Samuel Johnson-

    July 4, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. nc1965

    What do you know.

    On the fourth of July we celebrate by mimicking bombs exploding in the air while at the same time polluting the air and water.

    Then we wonder why the U.S., with less than 5 percent of the world's population, has almost a quarter of its prisoners and 25% of the world's homicides.

    July 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
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