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Editorial: All Quiet in Lebanon, as July 4 Fireworks Fizzle

John Adams asserted that July 2 was the correct day to celebrate America’s birth, because that was when the Continental Congress first approved Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee’s motion calling for independence. Adams wrote to his wife that July 2 “will be celebrated, as the great anniversary Festival,” with “Pomp and Parade … Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”

While Adams was not a renowned sorehead, it is said, according to a History Channel account, that he later turned down invitations to appear at July 4 events, in protest of what he considered historical error. (But Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, as if giving the date eternal recognition.)

We mention this because the City of Lebanon has decided to move the traditional Fourth of July fireworks to Aug. 28, when they will be rolled into an end-of-summer party, alongside a farmers market, battle of the bands and a dance fest. Although we’re not sure what Adams would have thought of farmers markets (approval, we suspect) or an electrified battle of the bands (bafflement?), he might have approved of giving the cold shoulder to July 4 fireworks.

But former Lebanon mayor Terri Dudley does not. “I’m shocked,’’ she told staff writer Nora Doyle-Burr last week. “The Fourth of July is when you have fireworks, not in August.” Current Mayor Georgia Tuttle seemed more flexible about the timing: “I’ve always been surprised at how many communities have fireworks (on July 4) and compete with each other.’’ Several city residents, particularly those with a good view of the fireworks atop Storrs Hill, expressed disappointment. Tom Kimball of Church Street said he’d been watching the July 4 aerial show for 51 years from his front lawn, and wouldn’t commit to the Aug. 28 date. “Depends if I’m here,’’ he said.

With the ascent of Monday holidays, the trend toward movable feasts could accelerate. Thanksgiving is awfully close to Christmas, and their proximity backloads demand for family togetherness into an all-too-brief stretch. Surely New Year’s might benefit from milder weather, although the Gregorian calendar has a lot of staying power.

To be fair, the city isn’t trying to change the actual holiday; it’s just continuing something it initiated last July when flash flooding rendered Storrs Hill unusable for launching fireworks. Recreation Director Paul Coats said he welcomes feedback from residents about the decision to celebrate in August; some of that feedback will likely sizzle and pop.

The later date does offer advantages. Darkness comes much earlier, a benefit to those for whom 9 p.m. is the new midnight. And the city will get more boom for its bucks: Fireworks prices are better off-peak. Nevertheless, the date does lack a certain something, as they say — a hook. July 4 has the Declaration of Independence, but Aug. 28 is when Theodric, king of the Ostrogoths, defeated Odoacer at the Battle of Isonzo in 489. Might be worth a bottle rocket or two in certain locales.

One community’s loss is another’s gain. Hartford’s July 4 fireworks will go on just across the river from Lebanon, and Scott Hausler, assistant director of Hartford Parks & Recreation, said the thinning of competition ensures that “we’ve got the best fireworks in the Upper Valley.”

Turnout should be good there, as locals remain loyal to life, liberty and the pursuit of pyrotechnics, a full 238 years (and two days) after, John Adams declared, America was born.