Thirty-eight percent of July Fourth travelers hit the road last Friday, making a week-long trip out of the holiday. Assuming at least a handful of people are at work and biding time at the computer until tomorrow’s federal holiday (i.e., day off from work), this post is for the rest of you.
More than 88 percent of Americans will partake in Independence Day festivities this year, up slightly from the 87 percent who joined in last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2007 Independence Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by consumer research firm BIGresearch.
Even though the Fourth of July holiday falls in the middle of the work week this year, traveling should also remain a popular option: according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 41.1 million Americans will get away this Independence Day, up slightly from the 40.8 million who traveled last year.
In fact, so many Americans are unwilling to forgo their traditional Independence Day plans that they’ve opted to take off a few more days of work to do so, according to the AAA. Have you noticed it already? The office seems quieter, doesn’t it? Thirty-eight percent of July Fourth travelers hit the road last Friday, making a week-long trip out of the holiday.
Burgers and Dogs
What better way for a nation to celebrate its declaration of independence from Great Britain than by meat and beer? The NRF estimates 61 percent of party-goers will partake in a cookout, complete with burgers, dogs and booze.
This year Americans will spend more than $275 million on hamburgers and hot dogs as they celebrate the Fourth of July. Americans will spend $176 million on hamburger patties and $34.5 million on buns alone, according to BIGresearch.
According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans will consume 150 million franks on the Fourth of July — that’s enough hot dogs to stretch from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles five times over. All those dogs will cost party-goers $101 million, estimates BIGresearch. And don’t forget to tack on another $393.1 million for condiments.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is more than a 1-in-4 chance that the hot dogs and pork sausages consumed on the Fourth originated in Iowa. The Hawkeye State had a total of 15.5 million market hogs and pigs on March 1, representing more than one-fourth of the nation’s total.
At midday each Fourth of July, a group of 20 steely-eyed individuals line up behind a 40-foot table to begin the 12-minute contest. These competitors, known in the sport of competitive eating as gurgitators, may not appear athletic to the untrained eye of John Q. Public. However, they are among the finest athletes in the world.
As for potato salad and potato chips, both popular food items at Fourth of July barbecues: Nearly half of the nation’s spuds were produced in Idaho or Washington last year.
BIGresearch expects party-goers to spend $120.7 million on chips and dip this Fourth of July.
Moreover, the U.S. Census Bureau finds there to be 50-50 odds that the beans in your side-dish of baked beans came from Michigan or North Dakota, which produced 49 percent of the nation’s dry, edible beans in 2006.
In all, the nation will spend $1.1 billion on food and another $429 million on drink this Independence Day, says BIGresearch.
Light ‘Em Up, pt. I
Of course, you can’t barbecue without a fire. Americans will spend $274.2 million this year on charcoal and lighter fluid for their grills, according to BIGresearch.
Four out of every five American households have at least one grill, according to John Ward, of Applewood Plumbing, Heating & Electric, at YourHub.com. One out of five has more than one. And nearly half will use their grills at least one or two times a week during the summer.
However, more than 2,000 Americans will be burned in grilling accidents this year, Ward says, and grill-related fires will cause more than $30 million in damages to homes and other structures.
The New York City Fire Department provides a great roundup of barbecue safety. General barbecue guidelines are given for before, during and after your outdoor cooking time, as well as specific precautions you’ll need to keep in mind for propane, charcoal or electric grills.
A couple of the best tips:
Before barbecuing — “Keep children away from fires and grills. It is a good idea to establish a safety zone around the grill and instruct children to remain outside the zone. A chalk line works great for this purpose.”
After barbecuing — “Always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning and storing instructions that accompany the grill.”
Light ‘Em Up, pt. II
Other festive ways to toast the Fourth: fireworks and parades. More than 42 percent will attend fireworks or another type of community celebration, while 10 percent will take in a parade, NRF’s survey found.
According to the American Pyrotechnic Association, more than $690 million will be spent on fireworks this Independence Day. Most of that money will be spent on backyard pyrotechnics, including bottle rockets, champagne poppers and sparklers.
PBS provides a cool video of the science behind fireworks, from its 2002 NOVA broadcast “Anatomy of a Firework.”
So does HowStuffWorks.com.
Check out fellow blogger Fred’s post today on the science behind fireworks.
To Protect and Preserve
Finally, in the midst of fireworks, burgers and booze, let’s not forget heritage, patriotism and, specifically, the documents that best symbolize the reason for our having a nationwide day off from work on the same date every July.
The collectively known Charters of Freedom is comprised of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. These three formative documents of the U.S. documents — which for more than two centuries have set forth and defined the rights and freedoms of Americans — recently received advanced-tech protection to keep the historic documents safe.
They are now encased in state-of-the-art titanium and aluminum enclosures, constructed of ballistically resistant materials to include the glass, with gold-plated frames, and held in three customized high-tech vaults when not on display.
Last year we noted:
Between 1952 and July 5, 2001, the Charters of Freedom were preserved in helium-filled cases created by the Commerce Department’s National Bureau of Standards, predecessor to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In 2001, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), NIST, NASA and Heery International teamed to design new state-of-the-art enclosures for the Charters of Freedom and to re-encase the documents.
The design for the newer encasements allows conservators to open and reseal the cases — if it is ever necessary — to examine the documents or modify the interior components. The documents are mounted in such a way that glass never touches parchment. Ultra-smooth surfaces, new space-age gaskets and the use of the inert gas argon, rather than helium, are meant to prevent leakage, while a controlled amount of humidity keeps the parchment flexible. The design update further allows for “flexibility” to incorporate future conservation techniques as they are developed.
For more on this, see: Encasing the Works of Our Freedom.
The staff at IMT wishes you a safe and happy Fourth of July. We’ll be back on Thursday, but until then, enjoy the holiday, folks!