Once, purely through an accident in my travel schedule, I happened to find myself in Williamsburg, Virginia on the Fourth of July. I remember this because it was the only time I found myself in a celebration of the Fourth of July whose major objective was the reading of the Declaration of Independence. (To be fair I have heard this subsequently on National Public Radio, always with the participating of "name" actors; and I have attended at least one reading outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia. However, Williamsburg was the one place that directly associated the Fourth of July with the date on the Declaration.)
Since then I have been in a variety of different cities on July 4. Inevitably, it is all about the fireworks, often with "warmup" activities getting under way on the evening of July 3. However, if all of that sound and fury pushes the significance of the date into the background, they are nothing compared with Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, which is 99 years old today. It is almost as if this celebration of gluttony has earned itself the position of one of those rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Nevertheless, it is understandable. After all, reading the Declaration of Independence says nothing about the "American way of life" being committed to consumerism above all else.