Hundreds gather at Independence Hall for annual Declaration of Independence reading

Actors perform a reading of the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall as spectators watch

The annual reading of the Declaration of Independence took place behind Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 8, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Every year on July 8th, park rangers from the National Park Service hold a commemorative re-enactment of the first Declaration of Independence reading.

245 years ago, colonel John Nixon stepped out of the Pennsylvania State House, which is now Independence Hall reciting the Declaration of Independence to a crowd of spectators, who would be the first to hear the news. Soon after, across the thirteen colonies crowds formed in city centers and plazas to hear the news of freedom from the British monarchy.

The annual reading of the Declaration of Independence took place behind Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 8, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

On Thursday hundreds of spectators, many dressed in red white and blue, waited outside of the same building all these years later. A park ranger dressed as John Nixon did just as they did many years ago, and read the declaration aloud.

Families from all across the country gathered gleefully, many hoping to get tickets into the building which was sold out. Park rangers stationed on all parts of the grounds held large copies of the declaration to give out.

Visitors to Independence Hall received a printed copy of the Declaration of Independence at the annual reading of the historic document in Philadelphia on July 8, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Michele Decamp, of New Bern, North Carolina brought her daughter Chloe to Philadelphia as they embarked on a historical tour of the east coast. Her daughter was inspired to learn more about the American Revolution from Broadway’s hit show Hamilton.

“I wanted her to have a better grounding of the actual historical elements of it. Hearing the declaration read at independence hall and understanding it was the catalyst for so much that came after, it was a powerful moment” Michele said.

Tracy Whitman of Illinois, dressed in her red white and blue, gave a huge round of applause at the end of the ceremony. She came to Philadelphia for Fourth of July festivities, this was her fourth time visiting Independence Hall.

“It’s the fight for freedom, that’s what makes me enthusiastic and we’re free” Tracy said.

Visitors to Independence Hall received a printed copy of the Declaration of Independence at the annual reading of the historic document in Philadelphia on July 8, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The National Park Service holds this event annually to mark the day the Declaration was read publicly. Last year’s event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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