Historic Triangle partied like it was 1776 for the Fourth of July


Despite the heat, crowds flooded outside across the Historic Triangle for the Fourth of July for hot air balloon rides, parades, hot dogs and live music.

From the cobblestone streets of Colonial Williamsburg to the sandy shores of Yorktown beach, there was something for everyone.


Festivities kicked off in Williamsburg at 9:30 a.m. with a reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Capitol Building. The crowd listened as Kurt Smith, portraying Thomas Jefferson, recited the famous document from the Capitol’s balcony.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” Smith said, the crowd cheering in response.

Later, the Williamsburg Economic Development Authority hosted its “All American July 4th” celebration. People gathered on the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum’s lawn for an egg toss competition, live music and tethered hot air balloon rides.

Adam Steely, a member of the Williamsburg EDA and organizer of the event, said they were looking to host an event with a traditional Americana feel, like selling popcorn and coke for five cents.

“We just really wanted to a throwback to old-time Americana, and a nickel seemed like a fun way to do that,” said Michelle DeWitt, Williamsburg’s economic development director.

Originally, Steely said he thought of hot air balloons because they seemed like they would be eye-catching and fun for visitors, but he also realized the timing of hot air ballooning aligned with America’s history.

Gilbert Martin, a hot air balloon pilot with Balloons Over Virginia, said the first hot air balloon flight was in Versailles in 1783, the same year the Peace of Paris was signed for the American Revolution.

Hannah Thornton, a visitor from Raleigh, North Carolina, said she rode the hot air balloon because it was on her bucket list.

“It was amazing,” she said. “You’re just floating there going up and down and you think it’s exactly how a bubble feels.”

Next, was the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg’s July 4th Ice Cream Social. Guests enjoyed hot dogs, soda and ice cream while listening to the Michael Clark Band perform. Bill Bunnell, a club member and event organizer, said the group decided to take over the event after the Auxiliary of Sentara Williamsburg Regional Hospital stopped hosting it.

“We’re excited about offering to the community a Fourth of July Ice Cream Social which used to be a staple in the community,” Bunnell said. “So we’re hoping we can get it back to the way it was.”


Over in Yorktown, the Fourth of July Parade stepped off at 9 a.m. Players from the Fifes and Drums of York Town set the mood, with members from the Naval Weapons Station following close behind in white uniforms. The parade invited military veterans, politicians and businesses from the area to participate.

At the American Revolution Museum, an annual Liberty Celebration was underway. The Fifes and Drums gave another performance, and Continental Army interpreters led an artillery demonstration at the museum’s encampment.

Guests had the opportunity to view open-hearth cooking at the farm, where historical interpreter Rob Brantley cooked up celebratory chicken and chocolate pie.

Meredith Hankins of Birmingham, Alabama, said she came to the American Revolution Museum with her family on vacation to visit spots around the Historic Triangle.

“We’re history nerds,” she said. “This was one of [our] bucket list experiences with our girls.”

By the afternoon, Yorktown Beach and Riverwalk Landing filled with people enjoying food, music and sun. At Toby’s Dog House’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, five people tried to eat as many hot dogs as they could in under five minutes. Jimmy Buckingham won the contest after eating eight hot dogs.

Rain Thursday evening disrupted fireworks plans.

Colonial Williamsburg cancelled its show, scheduled at 9:15 p.m., and does not plan to reschedule. Those who purchased tickets for priority seating can request a full by calling 888-965-7254.

Yorktown had its fireworks early at 8:52 p.m. instead of 9:15 p.m.

You can still catch fireworks at Busch Gardens Williamsburg this weekend. Fireworks shows run every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 p.m. until Aug. 11.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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