Fourth of July weekend in the Queen City

Fourth of July weekend in the Queen City

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020Independence Day traditionally marks the peak of summer travel, events and large gatherings. This year, however, Fourth of July festivities have been significantly reduced or moved to the digital landscape for families to enjoy from the comfort and safety of their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the cancellations is The Charlotte Knights’ annual fireworks show over Independence Day weekend. However, not all celebrations have been dampened by the virus. From interactive conversations to races and, of course, fireworks, the Queen City will feature a few in-person events mixed with a large offering of virtual spectacles that will surely foster the patriotic spirit in these uncertain times. Here is our pick of the different in-person and virtual events happening over the Indepence Day weekend. 

Fourth of July Celebration at U.S. National Whitewater Center 

Described as a “summer classic,” the U.S National Whitewater Center will feature a two-day Fourth of July Celebration with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the festivities and keep socially distant. The festival will feature live music, various yoga practices, Battle Royale SUP Sprint, and two days of fireworks overlooking the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, the center wrote on its website. The celebration is free to attend, open to the public, and does not require tickets.

To learn more, visit:

Gastonia Grizzlies Baseball Game and Fireworks Show

Those wishing to enjoy nine innings of baseball, hot dogs and fireworks can head over to the City of Gastonia on Friday, July 3, for a night of Independence Day celebrations. Dubbed as the “the best fireworks in town at the greatest show in town,” the event is a great place to stretch your legs over the Fourth of July weekend. 

To learn more, visit:

Park National Bank American 4 Miler

Those wishing to maintain their fitness routine before tackling the celebratory burgers, hotdogs and chips customary of Fourth of July celebrations can enjoy an in-person or virtual 4-mile race. The Park National Bank American 4 Miler is an on-site or virtual run on Friday, July 3 that sets the tone for the rest of the Independence Day weekend. The on-site race will conclude with live music, but there will be no in-person awards ceremony, according to organizers. The cost ranges from $24-$27 and there will be no race-day registration.

To learn more,  visit:

Independence Day at the Charlotte Museum of History 

For history buffs and parents looking for daily learning activities, The Charlotte Museum of History will host virtual Independence Day festivities starting June 29 through July 4. The museum’s website offers new resources ready to teach and entertain its audience each day throughout the Independence weekend. Activities are free of charge but registration is needed. 

To learn more,  visit:

Virtual Family Dinner

Use this holiday break to bring the family together virtually. Much like work video calls, schedule a family video call at dinner time to unite family members scattered by social distance and travel restrictions. Though it may be hard to pass the potato salad across a video conference call, it is easy to enjoy a virtual family dinner filled with laughs and smiles. Food always brings people together, use this Independence Day to recreate the Fourth of July weekend you had in mind at the start of 2020.

How South Jersey is celebrating the 4th of July during the pandemic

How South Jersey is celebrating the 4th of July during the pandemic

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read – Celebrating Independence Day is a big deal for most Americans. The Fourth of July officially became a national holiday in 1870. Then in 1941, a provision was expanded, making it a paid day off for all federal employees. People across the nation celebrate by setting off fireworks, watching parades, and having casual BBQs with their friends and family. This year however, festivities are going to look a lot different due to the constantly evolving COVID-19 virus. 

South Jersey skies will sparkle slightly less than they have in previous years, as most towns have canceled their usual spectacles. However, that doesn’t mean the holiday is completely up in smoke. There are still quite a few CDC-regulated activities you can enjoy that will keep you safe while satisfying your patriotic urges. Invest: South Jersey explores five of the top things to do this Fourth of July weekend during a pandemic. 

Middle Township Fireworks 

Mayor Tim Donohue let freedom ring when he decided to reverse his decision to cancel this year’s fireworks display. The town’s annual celebration will be held at dusk on Saturday, July 4 and gates will open one hour before start time. People are encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing. The fireworks will also be streamed on the Middle Township Facebook page for anyone who wants to enjoy the festivities from the comfort of their home. 

For more information visit:

Burlington County Virtual Contests 

Bordentown Township, Medford and Riverton have all canceled their fireworks celebrations. However, county officials are still encouraging their residents to hold family picnics on their lawns or driveways at 4 p.m. on the Fourth of July. They hope these festivities will help unite their community while still practicing safe social distancing. Officials also announced that they will be holding virtual house decorating, patriotic costumes and pet pageant contests. Contestants are asked to submit photographs of their entries. The winners will be announced on, Facebook, and Instagram. 

For more information visit:

Ocean Gate 4th of July Parade

On June 20, Ocean Gate borough took to Facebook to announce that it will still be hosting its annual July Parade. Registration for the parade opens at 8 a.m. on July 4, at Adrian Hall. Try to come early because only a limited number of people will be allowed into the building at one time. The July Parade begins at 10 a.m. on Ocean Gate Avenue. To encourage social distancing, the parade route will be extended this year.

For more information visit:

North Wildwoods Family Parade, Kite-Flying Competition and more 

A few towns in Cape May County have canceled their celebrations but not Wildwoods. Independence Day Family Parade will begin at 9 a.m. at 9th and Atlantic Avenue in North Wildwoods. A barbeque will then be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. for a minimum donation of $8. Fourth of July fireworks will be held on the beach at Rio Grande Avenue. Since the fireworks can be viewed from almost anywhere on the Wildwoods Boardwalk, visitors have been encouraged to enjoy the show from a distance. Anyone who is participating in the celebrations is required to follow CDC regulations. 

For more information visit:

Virtual Fourth of July Festivities

Celebrating a holiday from the comfort of your home has its perks, especially during these unprecedented times. For starters, you won’t have to worry about parking or overpriced drinks if you are hosting a small gathering at your house. Also, a majority of cities across the country are streaming their festivities live so anyone can join the fun no matter where you are. For example, viewers will be able to watch Houston’s “Shell Freedom Over Texas” at 8 p.m. Eastern on The show will include performances by the Houston Symphony and country singer Pat Green. To make your at-home experience even more thrilling, try setting off a few fireworks from your backyard or get creative and decorate your front porch. We’re sure the neighborhood will enjoy your efforts as well.  

The Bay’s Top 5 Holiday Celebrations

The Bay’s Top 5 Holiday Celebrations

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read December 2019 ‘Tis the season for family fun and Tampa Bay has a myriad of holiday happenings to choose from. It comes as no surprise that the region holds such an eclectic and widespread range of options as the local economy boasts healthy and robust tourism and entertainment markets. The only challenge is deciding how to choose between all of the merry events happening throughout the Bay. Invest: explores five of the top options to spend your time during this holiday season. 


Enchant Christmas 

Not everyone is privileged to have the World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze and Market in their own backyard, but those in the Tampa Bay region can find this very attraction at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Embark on an adventure to find Santa’s reindeer inside an amazing, custom-designed light maze. Once you have solved the mystery, guests can enjoy the seasonal food and drinks as well as a Christmas Market featuring over 40 local and international artisans. Enchant runs until Dec. 29 and is a wonderful event for families of all ages.  

For more, visit:

Busch Gardens Christmas Town

On its own merit, Busch Gardens is already a must-see attraction in the Bay, so the fact that it features a holiday event that USA Today ranked as one of it’s 10 Best Theme Park Holiday Events, only furthers this narrative. Christmas Town not only is a beautifully decorated affair with millions of holiday lights, it is also a truly fun event. Visitors are afforded the opportunity to visit with Santa and Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, holiday-themed culinary experiences, live shows and the ability to have nighttime experiences on their famous thrill rides. Christmas Town is open to the public until Jan. 6 so there is still plenty of time to enjoy. 

To read more, visit:

Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park

Winter Village is not the typical holiday-themed event. Winter Village features a holiday-themed cafe, appropriately deemed the Icicle Craft Kitchen, a variety of unique shopping experiences and a unique train ride called the Winter Village Express. But perhaps most significant is the last thing most people would expect to find in Florida: an outdoor ice rink. This is Downtown Tampa’s only outdoor ice rink,and quite possibly one of the only ones in Florida, which is made even more unique with the amazing views of the Tampa Riverwalk and Hillsborough River. This can’t miss opportunity is open until Jan. 5 and the perfect way to bring some holiday happiness. 

For more, visit:

Downtown Tampa Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

In most of the country, a boat is the last place anyone would expect to be during the wintertime, but in Florida the winter is possibly the best time to take out a boat and enjoy the cooler temperatures. That being said, it’s only fitting that Downtown Tampa is home to the annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade. The parade runs all the way down Tampa Riverwalk and features some of the region’s most unique watercrafts sporting their finest holiday lights. The event takes place from 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. on Dec. 21 in Downtown Tampa. 

For more information, visit:

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

This time of year all of the major holidays have one consistent thing in common: there is always a big football game on. In Tampa Bay, this stands true as the region will once again welcome the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl to town on Dec. 23 at Raymond James Stadium. Residents of the Bay can enjoy from their homes or partake in the festivities at the game as the University of Central Florida Knights take on last year’s Bowl champions the Marshall Thundering Herd. The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without some good old-fashioned football. 

To learn more, visit:

Florida: Home of the Real First Thanksgiving?

Florida: Home of the Real First Thanksgiving?

By: Sara Warden

2 min read November 2019 — When we think of Thanksgiving, generally we conjure up images of hats with oversized buckles, turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and The Mayflower. But according to historian Kathleen Deagan, research curator emerita of historical archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, the first Thanksgiving was not exactly as we may imagine. Rather than taking place in Plymouth, the first Thanksgiving feast was actually celebrated in Florida.


The meal was shared by the Spanish Conquistadors and the native Timucuans, more than 50 years before the Mayflower arrived on American shores, according to historians. Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Spanish explorer and 800 soldiers and sailors landed on Florida’s shores near St. Augustine before holding the Mass of Thanksgiving.

“The holiday we celebrate today is really something that was invented in a sense,” said Deagan in an interview with the University of Florida. “By the time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the people who settled America’s first colony with Menéndez probably had children and grandchildren living there.”

So instead of buckled shoes and hats, think suits of armor and 16th century Spanish garb. Instead of turkey, think salted pork, and instead of pumpkin pie, think garbanzo beans, olives and hard sea biscuits. “It was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land,” wrote University of Florida professor emeritus of history Michael Gannon in his book The Cross in the Sand.

Other sources say there were many other “Thanksgiving” ceremonies in Florida well before even Menéndez, including the landing of French explorer Rene Goulaine de Laudonnière at Jacksonville in 1564, Hernando de Soto in 1529 and Juan Ponce de León in 1513. After approximately 70 days at sea, all most likely would have had to depend on the kindness of the natives for food and shelter when they landed on American shores.

Some argue that the Plymouth mass is remembered as the first Thanksgiving because it was the first that spawned a yearly tradition. “None of these events were made anything of historically, or even rediscovered, until the 20th century, and thus did not contribute to our modern American holiday tradition,” said James W. Baker, author of Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday. 

But regardless of where the first holiday was held, the true meaning behind Thanksgiving has evolved to symbolize coming together with friends and neighbors to break bread and overcome differences. There is no doubt that this tradition has immense relevance for states such as Florida, with their rich patchwork of cultures. “The fact is, the first colony was a melting pot and the cultural interactions of the many groups of people in the colony were much more like the U.S. is today than the British colonies ever were,” said Gifford Waters, historical archaeology collection manager at the Florida Museum.

To learn more, visit: