Independence Day history has local "flare"

Coosa River fireworks remain a Gadsden 4th of July tradition.Coosa River fireworks remain a Gadsden 4th of July tradition.

 By Lindsay Seagraves/News Editor

Betsy Ross likely hadn’t envisioned children waving red white and blue at the Gadsden city boat docks when she was asked by three members of the secret Continental Congress to weave America’s first flag.

Francis Scott Key’s phrase “the bombs bursting in air” in our country’s national anthem doubtlessly meant colors bursting over the Coosa River when it was written in 1814. When John Adams wrote his letter of July 3, 1776 he might not have meant First Fridays downtown as he said, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”

Or perhaps they did see a town full of patriotism joining together each year to celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independance  July 4, 1776 that declared our country’s independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Etowah County has long celebrated the 4th of July, dating back to a documented Independence Day celebration in 1883. This one ended up as a celebration gone wrong while almost an entire downtown Gadsden caught fire and resulted in the construction of most of the historical brick buildings standing now.

Even since the fire, Etowah County cities have kept the holiday alive by way of fireworks shows.

“Getting the community together,” was most of the county’s response to why they host a fireworks display, but others may wonder exactly what prompts the celebration of fireworks each Independence holiday. 

Instrumental in negotiating in favor of Independence Day at Continental Congresses, John Adams had a passion for celebrating America’s freedom from Great Britain. He continued in his letter to wife Abigail, “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” 

Local historian and  Eto-wah Historical Society President Danny Crownover confirmed Adams meant for Americans to celebrate Independence Day with a bang, agreeing as he said, “My most enjoyable 4th of the July consists of me and my family watching the fireworks at night.” 

Keeping the tradition alive, The Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association will host its annual fireworks display in the City of Gadsden Friday, July 4 at 9 p.m.

Sardis City and Altoona also joined in the celebration as they held fireworks shows Saturday, June 28. 

As Adams ended his letter, Etowah County will also remember the cost of Independence while keeping the history alive. “I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration…Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means.”

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