John Adams, an American Founding Father, and the second President of the United States, predicted how Americans would spend our future Independence Days when he wrote to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776, the day after the Second Continental Congress made its decree for freedom: " I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more." The next day, Congress formally adopted the Declaration, sounding the bell at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Pen would not actually be put to paper until August 2, but six long years of struggle for independence had begun.
In New Jersey we are fortunate to be able to celebrate our independence on hallowed ground, the Crossroads of the Revolution, where so many crucial moments in the war took place. For the fourth year in a row, Morris County will celebrate the 4th of July the way the Founding Fathers might have imagined it at the annual Revolutionary Times. This year, in addition to celebrating the country’s independence, the event will also salute the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the 200th anniversary of the Trustees of the Morristown Green. The schedule of events spans July 2 to July 4, a period during which Morristown National Historical Park will be free and open to the public in honor of their Centennial and the July 4th holiday.
On Saturday, July 2nd the Hanover Township Landmark Commission kicks off the weekend with a free tour of its 1718 Burying Yard located off of Route 10 East in Whippany. This one-hour tour will highlight people who first settled Morris County and are buried in the cemetery. Morristown National Historical Park will be free and open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Visitors will be able to view a special National Park centennial exhibit, as well as the museum and Ford Mansion at the Morristown unit of the park.
On Sunday, July 3rd Morristown National Historical Park will host a Revolutionary War encampment at the Ford Mansion. Costumed reenactors will be on hand demonstrating a soldier’s life in the Continental Army. Between 1 and 3 p.m. the park welcomes the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps for a lawn concert.
The Morris County Park Commission, the Morris County Tourism Bureau and The Town of Morristown are pleased to present a fireworks display, also free to the public, on Sunday, July 3rd. Fireworks will begin at 9:15 p.m. at Central Park of Morris County, off West Hanover Avenue in Morris Plains-Parsippany. Parking is limited and early arrival and carpooling is recommended.
Monday, July 4th events will begin at the Ford Mansion where the Continental Army reenactors will march to the Morristown Green at 11 a.m. The public is invited to fall in and march with them. At the Morristown Green there will be family activities beginning at noon. Eric Olsen and Tom Winslow of Morristown National Historical Park’s ranger corps will provide the colorful, annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence, a long-standing Morris County tradition, at 12:30 p.m. Following the reading there will be a musket salute and free guided tours of the Presbyterian Church of Morristown’s church and Colonial-era graveyard. This is a rain or shine event. In case of rain the event will be held indoors at the Presbyterian Church, 57 East Park Place, Morristown.
Click to download a program and map for Revolutionary Times, as well as a list of fireworks in the area, or call 973-631-5151.
Fourth of July patriotic exercises also traditionally occur at the 20-acre park operated by the Washington Campground Association at 1761 Middlebrook Rd., in Bridgewater. The park commemorates the two major Continental Army encampments at Middlebrook, in spring of 1777, and winter of 1778-79. For well over a century a solemn Independence Day Ceremony there, well-attended by dignitaries, has consisted of a changing of the 13-star flag and the reading of the Declaration, followed by a keynote speaker and an historical address. Ceremonies begin at 10:30am. 732/469-6453
As for "shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations", the Somerset County Park Commission holds an Independence Day Family Festival at North Branch Park, in Bridgewater. The free annual event offers children's entertainers and activities, including horse rides, moonwalk, giant slide, magic show, sing-alongs, and cartoon characters. Other activities include stage performers and Revolutionary period groups. The festivities begin at 5pm and culminate with fireworks at 9:30.
Long-time followers of New Jersey "illuminations" will tell you that the fireworks at the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club are hard to beat, especially if you've got a view from a boat. More fireworks over water are known to occur at Mountain Lake in Warren County.
The folks at Shawnee Mountain just across the Delaware River in Shawnee, PA, do a great job, this year on Sunday, July 3. Various food & craft vendors, and a delicious Hickory Licks barbecue precede fireworks at 9pm. $10 per car load.
And if you plan to be out of town on the Fourth, you can join the parade down Main Street and gather at the green for a patriotic speech at Millbrook Village in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on Saturday, June 25. There will be lots of old time games for kids of all ages as well as tours and demonstrations all around the historic village during the Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration. The event starts at 10am. Click or call 908/537-7079.