Hours after the Continental Congress voted to proclaim the American colonies independent from England, John Adams penned a letter to his wife Abigail. In it, he declared that succeeding generations should celebrate Independence Day "by 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." A grateful nation has followed Adams' wishes ever since.
Adams likely never imagined, however, that many of these "illuminations from one end of this continent to the other" would come at the expense of taxpayers. He and many other Founding Fathers would likely fume at the fact that, every July 4th, millions of tax dollars literally go up in smoke subsidizing fireworks displays.
Most cities and towns across the United States have some form of Independence Day celebration. Many rely on corporate sponsorships and community volunteers to put on parades, festivals and fireworks shows at no cost to taxpayers. Some municipalities, however, raid government coffers, spending colossal sums of tax dollars to put on Fourth of July extravaganzas.
Few cities in America can afford to waste money less than Detroit. That won't prevent Motor City lawmakers from blowing $872,000 on Fourth of July fireworks this year. In Nashville, taxpayers pour more than a half million dollars into a Convention & Visitors Bureau fund that subsidizes the cost of Music City's fireworks display and other related events.
Among the scores of other cities and towns across the nation forcing taxpayers to fund fireworks displays and other related Independence Day parties are:
• Royal Palm Beach, Fla. — $48,000
• Middletown, Conn. — $40,000
• Mobile, Ala. — $28,500
• Lake Elsinore, Calif. — $20,000
• Neenah, Wis. — $20,000
• Concord, N.H. — $5,000
Thankfully, some governments are taking pity on taxpayers. Camden County, N.J., has canceled this year's fireworks show because of budgetary belt tightening. Financial constraints have halted Wichita, Kansas' taxpayer-funded Fourth of July fireworks show since 2008. Fortunately, Wichita residents will still have a chance to see a patriotic fireworks display when the Wingnuts, the city's minor league baseball team, hosts an American-themed fireworks show on Friday.
Wichita is not alone. Time and time again, when taxpayers' money is saved for better things than an Independence Day celebration, businesses and community leaders step up to fill the void.
In Indian Hills, Colo., the fire department collects donations and hosts a pancake breakfast to fund the town's $6,000 fireworks show. The Upper Arlington Civic Association outside of Columbus, Ohio, hosts a fireworks display courtesy of thousands of volunteer hours and individual contributions. Needham, Mass., residents enjoy fireworks on July 4th thanks to the town's Exchange Club, which funds the event with a mixture of donations from residents and businesses.
That spirit of charitable contribution and community support is much more in line with the essence of Independence Day than government coercing residents to pony up their hard-earned dollars to fund something politicians and bureaucrats have decided is a good idea.
There is more than a little irony in the fact that Independence Day, which celebrates people freeing themselves from a government that taxed them to pay for lavish affairs that celebrated the government, is now celebrated by government taxing people to pay for lavish affairs that celebrate the government.
Leave it to government to change the Fourth of July from a day to celebrate independence to a day when millions of tax dollars are burned.