I’m not sure why the Fourth of July has become synonymous with gathering with friends and family to grill hot dogs and hamburgers. What is the connection between charred food and the call for America’s independence from the British monarchy?
I asked a friend from across the pond whether the British have some sort of historical dislike for grilling — I thought that we were perhaps using charred food as a contemporary symbol of rebellion — and I looked for evidence of an unfair hot dog and hamburger tax on the 13 colonies, but it was to no avail.
It turns out that my friend is quite fond of the occasional burger and dog, and as far as taxing food-related items, although the British did tax sugar and molasses, I think tea was the thing that set everyone off, wasn’t it?
I’m not trying to deny the importance of the July 4 backyard barbecue; I’m just saying that food is only one way to celebrate the day. There are some community events going on that might bring a little more flavor to your holiday.
If you’re interested in something classic and cultured, the Boal Mansion will host a garden party July 1. There will be a reading and an 18th-century-style discussion of the Declaration of Independence, as well as a garden tour and a free tour of the Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion Museum.
Christopher Lee, CEO of the museum and descendent of Richard Henry Lee, who was one of the signers of the Declaration, explained, “In the 18th century, people like Voltaire would gather in the houses of leaders of society for intellectual conversation about government, the arts, etc. We will have a similar gathering and discussion on themes related to America’s Declaration of Independence. The public is welcome to participate.”
Patriotism, slavery, the role of the French and the Declaration’s inspiration to modern-day American culture will be the topics.
The garden tour, which will be led by Penn State Master Gardeners, “will focus ... on butterfly gardens and plants of the colonial period that would suit such gardens,” Lee said.
If your Independence Day tastes are a bit more casual, then the great American pastime might whet your appetite. Both the State College Spikes, on July 1, and the Altoona Curve, on July 4, will have fireworks after their games to celebrate the holiday. (I hear they sell hamburgers and hot dogs at the games, too, but charring would probably be a special request.)
Everybody loves a classic holiday movie, and every holiday has one. For July 4, it’s “1776,” an early-1970s musical that takes part of its dialogue directly from letters written by signers of the Declaration. The State Theatre will host screenings July 3-4.
For the kids, Centre Region Parks and Recreation will hold its Kids on Wheels parade July 4. Children are invited to bring their bikes, skateboards or other modes of transportation and ride from Foster Avenue and Locust Lane to Sidney Friedman Park, where there will be a “Happy Birthday to US” celebration.
Sherry Coven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.