In 1870, Congress declared July Fourth an official federal holiday, but Americans were celebrating with bells, music and military displays dating back to the day the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Today, independence in America continues to be reason to celebrate each year on July Fourth with patriotic displays, food and fireworks, and since the mid 1970s, the Empire State Plaza in Albany has been the place where the Capital District commemorates the red, white and blue holiday.
Each year, more than 30,000 people gather for the Fourth of July at Albany’s Empire State Plaza. The annual holiday celebration features live entertainment, food, family fun and what has become known as the best fireworks show in the region.
• What: Fourth of July Celebration
• When: Friday, July 4, with festivities beginning at 2 p.m.
• Where: Empire State Plaza, downtown Albany
• How much: Free
• Info: on Twitter @plazaevents
“It’s ingrained in the community that when you celebrate the fourth in the Capital Region, it’s at the Empire State Plaza,” said Joe Brill, from Albany’s office of general services.
The annual celebration marks its 39th year on Friday, with everything from magicians to ’60s pop sensation, “The Rascals.”
“There is a little bit of everything,” said Brill.
The event begins at 3 p.m. with a naturalization ceremony.
“An official comes in and gives the oath of citizenship,” Brill said. “It’s a celebration of our country’s independence — a traditional day to swear people in as citizens.”
Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals will headline the musical stage with hit songs such as “Good Lovin,” “A Beautiful Morning,” and “People Got to Be Free.” Other musical guests include Black Rock Zydeco and Gedeon Luke, a national soul recording artist and “American Idol” season five finalist, who will bring his band, We The People, to the plaza at 6 p.m.
“We The People will be performing all of our hits from our new debut record ‘Live Free & Love,’ along with a surprise song written especially for the state of New York,” Luke said.
Luke opened up at last year’s July Fourth celebration for Blues Traveler.
New this year are aerial trapeze artists, Airly Acrobatics, a rock-climbing wall, a petting zoo and mini golf on the plaza.
“There will also be a silent disco with a DJ,” Brill said. “People will put on headphones and dance to the music in their head.”
Roaming the plaza will be the Capitaland Chorus singing traditional favorites, magician Eric the Delusionist and an Elvis performer.
“Watkins Glen will also bring a race car, and have activities for kids,” Brill said.
Numerous kids activities will be available, including flight simulators from the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Glenville, bounce rides, carnival games, face painters, hands-on art projects and sports games with the Valley Cats and the Siena Saints Mobile Experience. Ongoing activities begin at 2 p.m.
As part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ongoing efforts to highlight New York’s history, a new Independence Day exhibit will open in the Capitol building that day showcasing New York’s role in the American Revolution. The exhibit includes an original copy of New York’s first constitution, George Washington’s ceremonial sword, Marquis de Lafayette’s pistol and the Benedict Arnold treason papers. The exhibit will be open from 2 to 8 p.m. and remain open daily through the month of July.
Brill said it’s no secret that the city will be packed with people and cars, and he suggests showing up as early as possible rather than waiting for the fireworks show to begin. He also recommends staying tuned to Twitter @plazaevents for updates on parking and traffic.
The festivities begin at 2 p.m. on Friday, July 4. Fireworks are scheduled to begin just after 9 p.m. Admission is free.
• 3 p.m. Welcome and Naturalization Ceremony (main stage)
• 3:35 p.m. Black Rock Zydeco (main stage)
• 4:15 p.m. The Nellies (north stage)
• 4:45 p.m. The North and South Dakotas (main stage)
• 6 p.m. Gedeon Luke and We the People (main stage)
• 7:15 p.m. New York State’s Fourth of July Celebration Official Program (main stage)
• 7:45 p.m. Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals (main stage)
• 9:15 p.m. Fireworks