Love Fourth of July fireworks? You’re not alone. Invented in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220AD) to ward off evil spirits, the banging, bursting bombs became an Independence Day staple from the very start of the American experiment. It was founding father John Adams’ idea; according to the Adams Family papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, Adams wrote his wife Abigail before the Declaration was even signed, foreseeing a future where the Fourth of July would be celebrated with “…illuminations from one end of this Continent to the other.”
And now, 232 years after that first American Independence Day, the illuminations continue. From one end of this county to another, free public fireworks displays are a wonderful way to enjoy the holiday and start the summer off with a bang.
In Gaithersburg, the fun starts early, with an action-packed Saturday known as SummerFest on June 30. “Some of my favorite features are the strolling performers, kid’s activities, giant inflatables, dynamic live band, festival foods and local craft beer tastings,” said Ilana Guttin, a SummerFest planning committee member. Guttin pointed out that the event, held the Saturday before the Fourth, offers some exciting activities, from aerialists and a zip line to a slo-mo photo booth. The event at Bohrer Park offers a chance to cool off indoors in an air-conditioned facility filled with jungle-themed activities. “As the sun sets around 9:30 p.m., people relax on their blankets and look up at the sky,” she added. There’s even a post-fireworks party, with “LED hoopers, jugglers, stilt walkers and glow balloons.”
Down the pike in Rockville, the fireworks are scheduled for Wednesday, July 4 — part of a music-filled evening that starts at 7 p.m. and features fun, food and The Nighthawks.
“We usually have about 10,000 people that come,” said Colleen McQuitty, the City of Rockville’s special events manager. “It’s definitely a family event — families and friends.”
McQuitty said that there’s ample parking as well as Metro accessibility, as the celebration is held in Mattie T.J. Stepanek Park. It’s a great spot to bring lawn chairs, blankets and perhaps a picnic, and some food vendors will be on the scene selling ice cream, pizza and barbecue. The Nighthawks kick things off with a concert that starts at 7 p.m.
“At 8:45, the mayor and council will welcome everybody to the event and we’ll have the National Anthem,” McQuitty explained. “This is a great opportunity for everybody to come out, enjoy some great music and see a great fireworks display. We invite everybody to join us in Rockville.”
There are other places to see fireworks, though. Takoma Park’s 9:30 p.m. July 4 fireworks at Takoma Park Middle School (TPMS) will cap a day of celebration, with the theme, “A City of Dreamers,” starting with a 10 a.m. parade from the intersection of Carroll and Ethan Allen avenues and a 7 p.m. program of musical performances at TPMS, featuring the bilingual folk-rock band Elena & Los Fulanos, Washington Adventist University’s Acro Airs and the Takoma Park Community Band.
Carmen Berrios Martinez said Montgomery County Recreation will have fireworks displays in Germantown (Germantown Glory) and Kensington (Mid-County Sparkles) on the night of July 4. “One is at Germantown Recreational Park in Boyds, and the second is at Albert Einstein High School.” Though similar in format, the events feature bands that give each a distinct flavor: Gringo Jingo will perform at Germantown Glory and Quiet Fire at Mid-County Sparkles. “The events start at 7 in Germantown and 7:30 in Kensington. The band comes out, they play, there are food vendors. People come out, they bring their blankets and lawn chairs, they enjoy the performance and the fireworks show begins at about 9:15, depending on weather.” Berrios Martinez said each event is expected to attract between 10,000 and 20,000 people, and she advised attendees to come early and settle in before the fireworks get started.
“Parking is on-site in Germantown,” she added. “In Kensington, the only parking available on site is for handicapped access; we have a free shuttle service from Westfield Wheaton to Einstein High School.” Many people walk, she explained, either from the Wheaton Metro or from the surrounding neighborhoods.
Which is probably closer to what John Adams imagined when he wrote about future festivities.
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival,” he said. “Through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory.”
Here’s to the Fourth of July!
Celebrations at a Glance:
June 30, 2018
Bohrer Park at Summit Hall Farm, Gaithersburg
July 4, 2018
South Germantown Recreational Park
18041 Central Park Circle, Boyds
July 4, 2018
Albert Einstein High School
11135 Newport Mill Road, Kensington
July 4, 2018
Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park
1800 Piccard Drive, Rockville
July 4, 2018
Parade will begin at the intersection of Carroll and Ethan Allen avenues, travel South on Carroll Avenue, turn right on Maple Avenue, and continue to Ritchie Avenue where it will disband.
Takoma Park Middle School
7611 Piney Branch Road
July 4, 2018
Soccer fields at the corner of Hughes and Sugarland roads, Poolesville
Note: $5 parking fee
Gaithersburg’s SummerFest Video: