Longest Running 4th of July Celebration
The town of Pekin, Indiana, on the Monon right of way, claims the distinction of having the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States of America. Pekin began celebrating Independence Day in the year 1830.
Bristol, Rhode Island claims to have celebrated since 1785.
Not too many historical facts about the earliest celebrations exist. The information available comes from oral tradition. The first several celebrations were said to be neighborhood affairs. It is assumed that it did not stay that way for long. Many families lived in the surrounding townships and there were not many social activities.
Various sources recount that the celebration was held near Old Pekin from 1830 until 1856. Around 1857 the celebration was moved to near the Blue River where festivities were held until 1885. In either 1872 or 1873 the picnic was held at the farm of James Campbell where he had built a recreational area.
The fall of 1884 saw the completion of the fairgrounds. The following year (1885), the celebration was moved to the new fairgrounds. Many local residents did not agree with the celebration being moved there and held a second celebration at Tash Grove.
In 1909, the Gill brothers bought the southern part of the old fairgrounds. It became known as Gill's Grove. This became the present location of the Pekin Community Park, where the celebration has been held every year since.
Today the celebration consists of a fireworks display a parade, live bands, 3 on 3 basketball tournament, carnival, food vendors, a flea market, reading of the United States Declaration of Independence, prince & princess contest, Horseshoe Pitching Contest, a queen contest, cookouts and many other small celebrations around the town of Pekin.
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