July 3, 2013 at 1:33 PM ET
There will be plenty of traditional parades and fireworks displays around the country this July 4th holiday weekend. But some towns around the United States have discovered more offbeat, independent, ways of showing their patriotic spirit.
In George, Washington, celebrations include baking the world's largest cherry pie. “They used to pick the cherries, pit the cherries, make the filling and bake the pie in a special 8 by 8 foot pan in a giant wood-fired stove over in the park,” said Debby Kooy, 58, part of a local service group called the Georgettes that bakes the treat annually. “That lasted until the year they served burnt cherry pie.”
Now they use ovens at a nearby high school, assembling what Kooy calls “more of a giant cherry crumble,” scooped out free on July 4th to about 2000 hungry fans.
Meanwhile, just off Federal Hill Park in Baltimore, Md., instead of baton twirlers and fire trucks, they celebrate with a pet parade and animal talent show. A regular favorite is Brutus the Tortoise, "who always carries some sort of wild, patriotic contraption on his shell," said Nick Prevas, spokesman for the American Visionary Art Museum, which hosts the event.
Participants have also included the usual dogs and cats, but also cows, an alpaca, a cicada circus and "imaginary pets," said Prevas.
"There's always someone with one of those 'ghost dog' leashes and one year someone carried a can that made meowing sounds," he said.
The prize for "first" 4th of July parade goes to Gatlinburg, Tenn, which begins at midnight. The early start doesn't scare away attendees. The town says it expects 100,000 to attend, with some staking out their positions beside the route with lawn chairs as early as 7 a.m. on July 3rd. Later, the celebrations continue with an unmanned river raft regatta.
For other cities, Independence Day isn't just about bringing 1776 back to life. Orlando’s Celebration Town, within the orbit of nearby Disney World, hosts a "Sci-Fi" 4th of July, with an appropriately themed costume contest. During the fireworks display, the rockets released into the air are synchronized to soundtracks from science fiction movies and television shows.
In a nod to modernity, "George Washington" sends word via email from his historic estate in Mount Vernon, Va, that he's "awaiting many guests to my home on this festive day." On the grounds of where the first President lived, tourists can watch as the re-enactor "inspects the troops," played by a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors.
Then, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services will swear in 100 new U.S. citizens. Following the ceremony are daytime fireworks and birthday cake.