On the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted, church bells rang out across Philadelphia.
Today, 237 years later, the occasion will be marked across the country, and in South Jersey in particular, with plenty of fireworks displays, parades and other extravaganzas. In Atlantic City, the fireworks will be launched from not one or even two locations, but four different areas simultaneously starting at 9:30 p.m.
"We're trying to change it up," said Liza Cartmell, president of the Atlantic City Alliance.
The launch locations are in the Marina District near Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, on the beach at New Hampshire Avenue near Revel Casino-Hotel, on the beach at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Bally's Atlantic City and on the beach at Hartford Avenue near Atlantic Club Casino Hotel.
"We're hoping that no matter where you are, you'll be able to see fireworks," Cartmell said.
The 20-minute show, launched on land by Fireworks by Grucci rather than from a barge, is a first for the alliance and costs about $300,000 to produce.
Cartmell said the Fourth of July is the real start of the summer tourism season. "The city's packed, the rooms are packed," she said.
Preparations for the event began Monday, said Joe Mercante, a project manager with Grucci. The crew setting up the tens of thousands of fireworks will stick around until Friday to clean up after the show.
Mercante said the synchronized performance can be seen not just by visitors to the Boardwalk but from nearby areas. Anyone who can see the fireworks should tune in to radio station WAYV-FM 95.1 to hear accompanying music.
Down in the Wildwoods, visitors can take in two fireworks displays, held today and Friday.
At 10 p.m. today, fireworks should be visible across Five Mile Beach. The display will be launched from the beach at Pine Avenue.
The next day, a second fireworks show, part of the Boardwalk's weekly free fireworks series, is also set for 10 p.m. at Pine Avenue.
"We're hoping for a strong, solid holiday weekend," said John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority.
The authority is spending $40,000 on the Fourth of July show, which is expected to last 16 minutes.
Nearby North Wildwood is hosting its annual Patriotic Pooch Parade, featuring elaborate dog costumes and bicycles. City Council President Patrick Rosenello said the costumes are so detailed, a gentleman once entered his dog in a homemade mini-tram car.
The parade starts at 8:45 a.m. at City Hall.
In Ocean City, the 9:30 p.m. fireworks, launched from a barge off the Ninth Street beach, follow a day that includes a 10 a.m. bike parade and a 7 p.m. kite-flying contest at the Moorlyn Terrace beach.
But the festivities will last through the weekend in many towns, with events such as the Celebration of Heritage planned Saturday at the Atlantic City Race Course in Hamilton Township.
The event commemorates a host of milestones, such as the starts of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Ford Motor Co. and the General Motors' Buick marquee, as well as the 110th anniversary of the Wright brothers' inaugural flight and the 60th anniversary of Chevrolet Corvettes.
Admission is $20, and doors are scheduled to open at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Ben Petrovic, organizer of the event, is the owner of Atlantic County Harley-Davidson. He said it made sense to hold a major celebration of so many American milestones.
"It gives people another venue or somewhere else to go," Petrovic said, adding that a 9 p.m. fireworks show is scheduled that day.
But no matter how people celebrate this weekend, Petrovic said it's important for Americans to mark the day.
"It's always a special time for everyone in this country to celebrate this great country," he said.
Contact Trudi Gilfillian:
The signing of the declaration
The Declaration of Independence is stored today at the National Archives. According to the archives website, one of the most widely held misconceptions about the Declaration is that it was signed on July 4, 1776, by all of the delegates in attendance. The Second Continental Congress officially adopted the declaration July 4. But according to the journal of the Continental Congress records, it was signed Aug. 2. The journal that day reads, "The declaration of independence being engrossed and compared at the table was signed."