Centre County celebrates Fourth of July by the numbers

Ron Williams, center, fills tubes with five-inch shells. Volunteers are preparing the fireworks for the Central Pennsylvania 4th Fest.
Ron Williams, center, fills tubes with five-inch shells. Volunteers are preparing the fireworks for the Central Pennsylvania 4th Fest. nmark@centredaily.com

Independence Day makes a great title for a summer blockbuster or a country song, but the holiday has become more and more known by its date.

So let’s take a look at the Fourth of July the same way: by the numbers.

In 1776, well, Centre County didn’t even exist. Census records say Pennsylvania had about 302,000 people the year the Declaration of Independence was adopted in Philadelphia. Today, the population sits at 12.79 million.

But that’s not the only big difference.

While Independence Day celebrations started in 1777, we had to wait a few years to get the party really started the way we might recognize it today. In 1785, the country was treated to the first Fourth of July parade, marching along in Bristol, R.I.

Today, parades are a lot different. In State College, the Heroes Parade will wind about 20 blocks from the borough building to the Bryce Jordan Center. In Clearfield County’s tiny Osceola Mills, it’s more like 30 blocks of parade route, and every inch is lined with people who have come from all over to watch the firetrucks and floats roll by.

And what’s even more red, white and blue than a parade? A cookout.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says Americans will eat 150 million on the Fourth alone, and that’s not taking into consideration that this year, the holiday falls on a three-day weekend.

Then there’s the beer.

Financial website WalletHub.com ranks the Fourth of July as the top holiday for beer-drinking. That’s not just a national figure.

Nick Murray, of State College beer distributor W.R. Hickey, couldn’t give precise numbers for how much beer is sold in town over the Independence Day weekend.

“It definitely increases. It’s at least double,” he said.

But before you double up on your alcohol consumption, make sure you have another way to get home.

In Pennsylvania, a first-time charge for driving under the influence, even just a nudge above the legal limit of 0.08, means a $300 fine. With a higher blood alcohol, something more than .10, the fine can go as high as $5,000, according to the state Department of Transportation.

By comparison, a cab ride is pretty cheap. Patrick Evans, of AA Taxi, says a ride from downtown State College to some of the apartment complexes around the Centre Region can cost about $8 to $10, and he is planning to have plenty of drivers on duty.

The perfect end to every Fourth of July is, of course, a splashy, sparkly fireworks display.

The Central PA 4th Fest spectacular is 45 minutes long and uses 10,830 shells, with the 27 explosions per second in the finale.

If that sounds like a lot of work, you’re right — 4th Fest is a major endeavor, with 60,000 to 80,000 people in attendance, and 12,000 hours of volunteer labor to pull it off.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce