I love the 4th of July. Who doesn’t? The barbeques. The fireworks. The endless displays of red, white and blue. It’s a grand occasion that I’m proud to say takes place right in our city’s backyard. On this date, Philadelphia takes center stage. We own the 4th of July. I can’t think of a better place to celebrate America’s birthday. So naturally, of course, I — like thousands of others around the Delaware Valley this year — will be celebrating it down at the Jersey Shore.
Like paper always beats rock, the shore air and sandy beaches of North Wildwood will always trump the party on the Parkway. Not that I’ve been down the shore that much on the 4th. In fact, this year will be only the second time that I’ll be out of town on that date. I can’t wait to trade in the sticky city air for the sweet ocean breeze. And I’m a self-proclaimed city girl. I live in Queen Village, well within walking distance of Penn’s Landing, where fireworks shows take place most Fridays in the summer. Why go all the way down to the Art Museum when I can see them right outside of my kitchen window?
No question, the Art Museum puts on a fantastic display every year, but after a while, I’m kind of … meh … over them. Besides, I’m sure the ones at the shore are pretty decent.
Now, I’m by no means suggesting that anyone dismiss spending the 4th in a wonderful and historical city like Philadelphia. Our Founding Fathers would be so proud to see all the hoopla that surrounds the event on that day. And it’s only gotten bigger and better over the years, thanks largely to TV and social media. Ben himself would surely get a kick out of the Welcome America Festival and concert on the famous Parkway named in his honor. I don’t know how he would feel about Ed Sheeran (he’s British!) or Nicki Minaj (um, she’s colorful?) as the main performers this year, but he’d be on board with seeing Philly’s own The Roots rocking the stage.
So Philly is a hot place to take in the sounds and sights of the 4th, but honestly, I have the whole rest of the year to enjoy all of that. I’ve walked around Independence Mall countless times and taken a tour of the Constitution Center. I’ve seen the Liberty Bell’s crack. I’ve even enjoyed first-hand the sweet sounds of Peter Nero and the Philly Pops at their annual July 3rd concert. I’ll forever be fascinated with the greatness that transpired in the city where independence was declared. I’ll personally sign my John Hancock to that statement.
But I don’t need to be in our nation’s birthplace to have a good time on the 4th. And I definitely don’t want to be anywhere near the Parkway after all the chaos I witnessed last year. I went down there with my brother and two friends toward the end of the concert, and we weren’t even there 20 minutes when the crowd behind us started running, pushing us forward. My brother grabbed my arm and led me to safety while we caught up with my friends who had gotten separated from us. I can honestly say, in those moments, I had never been so terrified in my life. Was it a gun? A bomb? Not even the police knew at the time. Turns out some knucklehead threw a lit firecracker to the ground. Now I get why some people would rather stay home.
My decision to head down to North Wildwood with some friends this year had little to do with shunning the city or family barbeques for the beach; it had more to do with not wanting to be stuck without any real plans. For one reason or another, my friends and I rarely have a game plan for the 4th. It’s probably because it seems like everyone we know is down the Shore. The only recent time we had planned ahead was when a group of us went to Seacrets in Ocean City, Maryland, in 2011. It was one of the best 4th of July weekends I ever spent.
So if you’re heading to the Shore on the 4th, have a drink with me. For anyone who’s been left behind by friends family with beach houses, I commiserate with you. It can be lonely in the city, even if you spend the 4th with good people. As for me, I’m already thinking about lying on my beach chair with a cold Corona in my hand, not wishing to be anywhere else.