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There are dozens of historic sites and monuments in the National Park system that serve as reminders of the United State's social, cultural, political and military history. There are also a number of related events in the days leading up to and following the Fourth. Here is a selection of patriotic events and destinations that are family friendly and a perfect way to spend your Independence Day.

Fort Laramie National Historic Site, WY

Fort Laramie is an early to mid-19th century fort originally settled by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and later used by gold diggers, emigrants along the Oregon, Mormon and California trails, the Pony Express, the Overland Stage, and the military during the Plains Indian Wars. Located adjacent to the town of Fort Laramie, a little under two hours north of Cheyenne or four hours south of Rapid City, SD, the Fort celebrates Independence Day with its annual "Old-Fashioned Fourth of July" celebration geared towards families. The festivities begin at 9:30am with a military flag raising ceremony and cannon firing, followed by old-fashioned children's games and fun at 10am including foot races, sack races, pole climbing and egg tossing with ribbons and prizes awarded for each event and age group. At noon, a thirty-eight gun salute will be presented at the flag pole and the firing of the park's 12-pound Mountain Howitzer. Plains Indian Warrior historian Michael "Bad Hand" Terry will give a formal program at 12:45pm on the culture and warrior traditions of the Northern Plains tribes and his Lakota warrior lodge will be set up for visitors to inspect. At 2pm, the Trotters nineteenth-century style cavalry drill team will perform on the historic parade ground and at 3:30pm National Park living history interpreters will present a historic weapons demonstration featuring small arms and artillery. Later that afternoon, children can take part in a junior soldier drill and be schooled in marching and drill techniques just as the soldiers of Fort Laramie were 125 years ago. The day will end with a "final bang" as park staff recreates the 1876 period retreat parade and cannon firing for the lowering of flag at 5:15pm Throughout the day, visitors can go to a variety of living history stations and watch period craft demonstrations, including sampling of army bread at the 1876 bakery. All events are free. For more information about this event visit www.nps.gov/fola.

Colorado National Monument, CO

Located eight miles south west of Grand Junction, CO (and around four and half hours' drive from either Denver or Salt Lake City), Colorado National Monument preserves a stunning landscape of monoliths, colorful rock formations, and canyons. The Monument will commemorate Independence Day with a morning ceremony marked by the raising of the U.S. flag 450 vertical feet from the canyon floor to the top of Independence Monument, the tallest free-standing rock formation in the park, accompanied by trumpeters playing "The Star- Spangled Banner." Some thirty rock climbers from Mesa County's Technical Search and Rescue Team will scale Independence Monument with the flag in tow while two interpretive programs will take place at scenic overlooks along the rim of Wedding and Monument Canyons. This traditional Fourth of July ceremony was introduced close to a century ago by John Otto, the man largely credited with making the site a National Monument. From 10:30am to 11:30am take a "Raising Old Glory: John Otto's Style" guided walk from Otto's Trailhead one mile east of the visitor center on Rim Rock Drive. Learn about John Otto's classic tradition for July 4 and watch the rock climbers. From 11am to 12pm attend "A Monumental Independence Celebration" Park Ranger talk at Independence Monument View Overlook. All events are free. For more information about the celebration, visit www.nps.gov/colm.

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, NY

Spend this Independence Day at the historic home of former president Theodore Roosevelt on what they call their "Red, White, and Blue Fourth of July." Located in Oyster Bay, roughly a 450minute drive from Manhattan on Long Island's North Shore, Sagamore Hill is a gorgeous Queen Anne-style home that was Roosevelt's home for decades, his summer home whilst he was president (where he hosted international dignitaries), and where he died. The day commences at 11am with a Birds of Prey demonstration featuring falcons, owls, and hawks by the Theodore Roosevelt Audubon Sanctuary. At 1pm there will be an equestrian demonstration by the "Rough Rider Re-enactors" in the field adjacent to the windmill. The "Rough Rider" Cavalry Troop of the Nassau-Suffolk Horsemen's Association will display riding techniques used by mounted soldiers of the Spanish American War at an authentic cavalry training camp and a period encampment will be set on the grounds. The Sagamore Hill Band will play a live music concert with music of the Roosevelt era starting at 2pm, there will be speeches by local dignitaries, and a Theodore Roosevelt look alike. The home itself will be open from 10am to 4pm for guided tours that cost $5 per person. For more information, please visit www.nps.gov/sahi.

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, KY

The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is located on the borders of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, approximately two hours' drive from either Knoxville, TN or Lexington, KY and features a rich collection of historic settler buildings, panoramic landscapes and subterranean splendors full of amazing rock formations. This July 4th commemorates 50 years since thepPark's dedication, so this year's celebrations promise to be quite festive with a series of events and activities. The park plans to recreate the atmosphere of 50 years ago when thousands turned out to hear then-Vice President Richard Nixon speak. Highlights include a special recognition of local community members who were instrumental in the creation of the park, a performance by the 100th Army Band of Fort Knox, the premiere of a short film about the park; and much more. The celebrations begin at 2pm and are free and open to the public.

Boston National Historical Park

No round-up of historical parks and sites on July 4th would be complete without the inclusion of Boston. The festivities here start on Wednesday, July 1, 2009. From 11am to 12:30pm Join a ranger-guided "Rum and Revolution" walking tour of colonial taverns (tours begin at the Boston National Historical Park Visitor Center on State St; tel. 617/242-5642). On the Fourth from 11:30am to 12:30pm, Boston waterway's most famous resident, the USS Constitution (tel. 617/242-7511) will fire a twenty-one-gun salute to the nation and cruise from Charlestown Navy Yard to the US Coast Guard base. You can view the historic ship from various waterfront and harborside vantage points around Boston. From 2pm to 4pm learn about the craft of rope making and take part in a hands-on activity at the Charlestown Navy Yard visitor center. The following day at 7:30pm there will be a sunset parade alongside the USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yards followed by a traditional Colors Ceremony. Back on July 4th, from 11:30am to 3:30pm, there will be a demonstration of eighteenth-century military skills at the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown (tel. 617/242-5601) and from 2pm to 2:45pm join a ranger-guided walking tour of Bunker Hill.

Boston African American National Historic Site

Also in Boston, the African American Historic Site (tel. 617/742-5415) will be running a series of unique walking tours to celebrate the African American role in American Independence on Tuesday, June 30, Thursday, July 2, and Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 11am. Join a National Park Service ranger on a special ninety-minute walking tour focusing on the time when the promises of the American Revolution were "on trial" in Boston's nineteenth-century African American community. This new tour will take you to places where Boston's developing black community struggled to realize the full promise of citizenship. Hear the stories of men and women who worked to secure freedom and equal rights and learn about the struggle to maintain churches, the ongoing fight for equal school rights, the Abolition Movement, and the burgeoning organizations of the community. Tours will start at the Samuel Adams statue in front of Faneuil Hall and conclude at the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill. Tours are free and open to the public but reservations are recommended. For more information visit www.nps.gov/boaf.

Independence National Historical Park, PA

Philadelphia, like Boston, holds a special significance when its comes to Independence Day celebrations. In honor of the holiday Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center will stay open beyond regular hours. July 1 to July 4, both buildings will be open from 9am to 8pm and no tickets are needed to see either between 5pm and 8pm or all day on July 4. July 1 to July 3, 9am to 5pm, free tickets for Independence Hall will be available at the Independence Visitor Center at Sixth and Market Streets. On Thursday, July 3, at 8:30pm the Philadelphia POPS will perform a free outdoor concert outside Independence Hall, playing a combination of patriotic tunes, popular classics, and new favorites. A Thomas Jefferson impersonator will make an appearance to read the Declaration of Independence. On July 4 at 10am, the City of Philadelphia will hold its annual Independence Day Ceremony in front of Independence Hall and at 1pm the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution and the Society of Descendants of Signers of the Declaration will hold the annual Let Freedom Ring ceremony, celebrating the day with patriotic music and, at 2pm, the ringing of bells all across the country to commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The ringing will be set off by the symbolic tapping of the Liberty Bell by eight young descendants of original signers of the Declaration. Watch the ceremony in the shade on the south side of Independence Hall or from the Liberty Bell Center.

The National Mall, Washington, D.C.

The National Park Service's America's 2009 Independence Day Parade begins at 11:45am and makes its way along Constitution Avenue. The parade route moves westward from Seventh Street to 17th Street and includes floats, balloons, marching bands, and military units. At 6pm the Independence Day concert begins on the southwest corner of the Washington Monument grounds, near the intersection of 17th Street and Independence Avenue SW with the United States Army Band and country music artist, Mark Wills. At 8pm "A Capitol Fourth" free concert featuring the National Symphony Orchestra will take place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Hosted by Jimmy Smits, the concert will also feature Barry Manilow, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, Aretha Franklin, Natasha Bedingfield, the cast of Jersey Boys, Michael Feinstei,n and classical pianist Andrew von Oeyen. For the kids, Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and other Sesame Street characters will also perform a musical medley of patriotic favorites as well as iconic songs from the television show. The concert will culminate with a rendition of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" with live cannon fire provided by the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery. The day concludes with the traditional National Park Service fireworks beginning at 9:10pm. For more information about the Fourth of July activities at the National Mall, visit www.nps.gov/mall/planyourvisit/4thofjuly.htm.

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