By Lou Carlozo, dealnews contributor
This Independence Day marks the 237th birthday of our nation. Just imagine Ben Franklin, John Hancock, and company magically teleported to the America we live in now, taking in all of the fireworks, the flag waving, and the Fourth of July grill-outs.
Here's another patriotic activity that takes place on Independence Day: spending. You can bet with July 4th falling on a Thursday, people will find all sorts of creative gambits to extend the holiday into the weekend. Hey, it's the American way! Last year, the National Retail Federation estimated that more than 160 million people, or 68% of Americans, participated in July 4th holiday festivities.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: life, liberty, and the pursuit of statistics. So whether you're lighting a few sparklers on the front lawn, heading to the nearest beach, or buying flags for the local parade, here's the rundown on stats, spending, and trivia surrounding the 4th of July. (And to find out what kind of deals you can expect during the 4th of July sales, check out our guide.)
Americans on the Road: 40.8 Million
AAA forecasts that for 2013, 40.8 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles during the Independence Day holiday, a 0.8% decrease from the 41.1 million people who traveled last year. Could high gas prices have something to do with it? Perhaps, but blame it more on the slightly shorter holiday weekend. With the Fourth of July landing on a Thursday, that makes for a 5-day holiday weekend, compared to the 6-day span in 2012, when it fell on a Wednesday. As for the bigger breakdown, 84% of travelers (34.4 million) will travel by car, a decrease of 0.7% from the 34.7 million last year.
Independence Day Cookouts: $2.4 Billion
Estimates for 2013 Independence Day spending haven't been released by the NRF, no doubt due to statisticians stocking up on mustard and angus beef patties in preparation. But using last year's numbers as a gauge, we can expect Americans will spend at least $2.4 billion on cookouts. And there's a good chance that figure will jump, as the average spending on a cookout dropped slightly in 2012 over 2011, fueled, if you will by higher charcoal prices and rising food costs.
Your Personal Independence Day Picnic or Cookout: $60
Last year, Americans spent $59.14 on their picnics, down from $61.16 in 2011, yet there's every reason to believe Americans will do their civic duty and proudly push that figure over the $60 mark once again. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the food index between May 2012 and May 2013 rose a modest 1.4%, and if you ask us, that same spirit that helped those first colonial patriots stand up to tyranny lives on the hearts of of 21st Century citizens who will let nothing — nothing — stand in the way of themselves and a juicy burger fresh off the grill.
Hot Dogs Eaten: 150 Million
If there are indeed 150 million hot dogs consumed this 4th of July, that's about half a hot dog for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. and the figure may swell even more if you take into account bison dogs, turkey franks, tofu dogs, and the like. However, it dwarfs by comparison another statistic: Americans will buy a combined 890 million pounds of chicken, beef, and pork in the week leading up to July 4. That's a massive amount of grill consumption in the name of independence, though we're still subjected to this bit of pre-colonial oppression: Rarely, if ever, do the number of hot dog buns in the bun package match the number of hot dogs in the hot dog package. Forget the federal deficit: who's working on solving this national crisis?!
Fireworks Spending: More Than $600 Million
We The People love our fireworks, to the tune $600 million woth of bursts and flares. Some holidays we don't mind watching our money go up in smoke, and these 2012 stats also reflect a more sobering side: several thousand people will suffer head, leg, and hand injuries related to fireworks displays. And while we doubt a cop is going to handcuff you for lighting a sparkler or two, keep in mind that five states have complete bans on all consumer fireworks: Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. Hmmm‚ aren't those all part of the original colonies?
Fireworks Used at Macy's Fireworks Display: More Than 70,000 Pounds
As for which fireworks display in the nation packs the biggest wallop, we're hard pressed to pick a winner. Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., New Orleans, and Chicago, along with Atlantic City and Addison, Texas, pull out all the stops for the Fourth of July. But if we had to pick a topper in terms of tradition, firepower, and star power, New York City's has to rank among the very best. Sponsored by Macy's, the Independence Day show is now in its 37th year, and the extravaganza even has a celebrity curator in the form of Usher. More than 40,000 fireworks will light up the sky above the Hudson River synchronized to a 25-minute score. If that seems short, you may have a point; fireworks displays of a generation ago lasted an hour or more. Hey, as long as all the fireworks don't go off all at once again...
Flags Made in America: 95%
There was some controversy a while back about some of our all-American flags being manufactured in China. Fortunately, that's been cleared up and you're buying flags for the Fourth, you can rest assured that most American flags are manufactured right here in the USA. Independence Day sees a big spike in flag sales, along with Memorial Day.... though not Flag Day, curiously enough. About 150 million flags are sold annually in the U.S., FMAA statistics show.
And so with Independence Day upon us, it's a good time to remember the blessings of living in such a robust land. So much of the year Americans find themselves divided by politics, grousing about taxes, or worrying about the future of the place we all call home. But Independence Day gives us a chance to look back at the sacrifices our founding fathers made, even as we look forward to the festive spreads, the fun road trips, the fireworks spangling the sky. So matter what's in your holiday picture, don't forget to paint it red, white, and blue.