The strangest Fourth of July traditions across the country

Not every city in the US celebrates Independence Day with a fireworks display  (Getty Images)
Not every city in the US celebrates Independence Day with a fireworks display (Getty Images)

This Thursday, Americans will be donning red, white and blue in honor of Fourth of July celebrations across the country.

The Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, marks the 248th anniversary of the founding of the United States. The original celebration occurred when the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which established the United States as its own sovereign nation apart from its original status as colonies of Great Britain.

Aside from the day being a federal holiday – with banks, post offices, government offices, and the stock market all being closed – many Americans tend to celebrate the holiday with a few classic activities.

In addition to sporting patriotic attire, some Americans celebrate with a backyard barbecue, complete with hamburgers and hot dogs; trips to the beach; and firework displays. However, other cities across the US have some traditions that aren’t as conventional.

New York

Every year at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, famous hot dog brand Nathan’s holds a contest in which both men and women try to eat as many hot dogs as they can in 10 minutes.

This year’s competition has already gained national attention, as reigning champion Joey Chestnut was barred from the 2024 contest due to a sponsorship with a competing plant-based hot dog brand.


The city of San Diego in California has a marshmallow fight every year on the Fourth of July. The tradition started when a few families in Ocean Beach began to randomly throw the classic s’mores ingredients at each other.

The event ended up growing in size until large crowds got involved. However, due to a lack of cleaning up the sugary mess in recent years, Ocean Beach has asked residents to eat marshmallows instead of throwing them.

Meanwhile in northern California, the communities of Bolinas and Stinson Beach in San Francisco host a century-old tug-of-war event across the water that separates the two communities.


Hannibal, Missouri – the hometown of author Mark Twain, who wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – combines the Fourth of July with what is called Tom Sawyer Days. Every year around the holiday, the town reenacts a famous scene from the novel, in which Tom convinces people to paint a fence for him.

For the town’s contest, people dress up like characters from the book and compete in a race to paint an assigned patch of their fence the fastest.


For the Fourth of July, Bar Harbor in Maine leans into their well-known reputation for seafood, specifically lobster.

To celebrate, the city holds lobster races with live lobsters. Participants are allowed to place bets on which lobster they think will win, as they stand on the sidelines to cheer for the sea creatures.


The town of Hailey, Idaho, used to put an interesting spin on their annual Fourth of July parade, called the Road Apple Roulette. To play this game, residents would buy one out of 10,000 squares that fell within the path of the parade.

Throughout the parade, horses dropped “road apples” along the way. If these “apples” landed in the square you bought, your name went in a drum and you could win big prizes, while the money went to local charities in the area.