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Fireworks and feasting are readied for July 4

  • Story Highlights
  • Americans expected to eat 150 million hot dogs on July 4
  • Eat 700 million pounds of chicken
  • Watch 275 million pounds of fireworks
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By Jonathan Mandell
CNN
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(CNN) -- Wednesday, Americans will celebrate Independence Day with picnics, parades and pyrotechnics. And with the population at more than 300 million, there will be a lot of all three.

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Americans blew up $900 million of fireworks last year to mark the Fourth of July and other celebrations.

"The Fourth of July is so hectic, I wear so many hats and we're doing so many things that we don't get to enjoy and love the Fourth of July," says Deborah Neu, CEO of a fireworks display company called Pyro Productions. "That's our peak and that's our time to be safe and work our butts off."

The Alabama company will be putting on fireworks shows throughout the Southeast. They've got 50 July 4 shows this year, "give or take a few," according to Neu.

While the fireworks professionals are preparing their big shows, Americans are expected to eat at least 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July, a third of them with mustard, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

Around 700 million pounds of chicken will be bought during the week of July 4, "which is more than two pounds per person in the United States ... and 40 percent higher than during a normal week," says Richard L. Lobb of the National Chicken Council. "That will include about 900 million wing segments, or 50 percent more than normal."

Americans will also buy more than 190 million pounds of beef during a two-week period that includes July 4, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. This is not only more than average, but it also is more than any other "popular grilling holiday" such as Memorial Day or Labor Day.

Much of this meat and poultry will be barbecued, according to the National Barbecue Association. "We don't have any hard statistics about how much," says Don McCullough, the association's executive director. "We do know that 87 percent of all Americans have grills at home, and that barbecuing has become much more popular in the last five years."

It will be accompanied by potato salad and/or potato chips. "We don't have any good data," says Matt Johnson of the United States Potato Board, "but we know it'll be a lot." And there is a 50 percent chance that it will come from a potato grown in either Idaho or the state of Washington, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The Fourth of July picnics will be topped off by more than 5 million gallons of ice cream, which is typical for any hot day in July, according to a spokesman for the International Dairy Foods Association.

More than 41 million people are expected to travel away from home to eat all this food over the Fourth of July, according to the Automobile Association of America, even though this year's holiday falls on a Wednesday.

About 60 million Americans who don't usually do so are expected to display the flag, according to the Flag Manufacturers Association of America.

In the evening they will enjoy, it is safe to say, more fireworks than ever before. Nine-hundred million dollars of fireworks were sold in the United States last year, nearly triple the amount of a decade earlier, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.

Most of the fireworks -- some 250 million pounds -- were used by individuals to celebrate the Fourth of July. Another 25 million pounds was used in public displays (though these have decreased since September 11, 2001).

For two days wholesale customers can buy fireworks around the clock at the Fireworks of Alabama which provides all sorts of fiery items to retailers.

"July 3 and 4 we don't close. We're open around the clock, 24 hours for two days straight," said Pam Palmer, president of that company and vice president of Crazy Bill's Fireworks.

The best-known public fireworks show has been sponsored annually for more than 30 years by Macy's in New York City, the largest in the nation, which this year promises 30,000 shells bursting 1,000 feet in the air.

The New York fireworks display is only one of some 400 put on during the Fourth by a company called Pyro Spectaculars, including well-known displays in Boston, Massachusetts; Houston, Texas; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

"That one day accounts for some 60 percent of our business," says the company's head, Jim Souza, who is the great-grandson of the founder. Souza knows that the Fourth of July means more than fireworks -- "It's American flags and hot dogs and families gathering" -- but he is proud of his displays, seeing them as rooted in a prediction of the nation's founders.

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Having just participated in the vote declaring the United States independent of England, John Adams wrote his wife, Abigail, in 1776, predicting that July day would "be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival ... with pomp and parade; with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other."

Two-hundred-thirty-one years later, Souza says, "Those 'bonfires and illuminations' have become sophisticated pyrotechnics synchronized to music." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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