The history of Carbondale’s Fourth of July celebrations

By Tahereh Rahimi, Staff Reporter

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  • The SIU recreation department built a cardboard shack, filled it with wood and an old tire or two. Then set a fire on it as a mock fire, according to an article in the Daily Egyptian, occurred on July 5, 1968. Photo courtesy of Morris Library Special Collections Research center, collection of “Neighboring Celebration,” from July 4, 1968.

  • A staged mock fire and splash party by the Carbondale Fire Department located at the Lincoln Park playground, according to an article in the Daily Egyptian, occurred on July 5, 1968. Photo courtesy of Morris Library Special Collections Research center, collection of “Neighboring Celebration,” from July 4, 1968.

  • People in an old car, with the name Carbondale written on it, celebrating the Fourth of July. Photo courtesy of Morris Library Special Collections Research center, collection of “Neighboring Celebration,” from July 4, 1968.

  • Spectators watch a show at the Lincoln Park playground celebrating the Fourth of July. Photo courtesy of Morris Library Special Collections Research center, collection of “Neighboring Celebration,” from July 4, 1968.

  • The exact date or the location is not known, taken between 101 to 105 years ago. Fourth of July parade, one obvious observance of the war is witnessed in this parade. This photo is from Carbondale: A Pictorial History by: Betty Mitchell

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Carbondale, like every other town and city in the States, has always celebrated the Fourth of July. 

By reviewing the Daily Egyptian archive, some books about Carbondale history and the photo archive of Morris Library to find out how Carbondale people have celebrated this 243 years old national event, this is what was found: 

According to the Daily Egyptian archive, celebrating this national fest in Carbondale has not been always the same. During some years, the July 4 ceremony included thousands of people who took part in the fest. In other years, especially when there was a long holiday, there was a smaller celebration.

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Besides various concerts, plays, dancing, nature trail hiking and cleaning-up nature, there are  some activities that are no longer common in Carbondale’s Fourth of July, like civic-sponsored celebration featuring carnivals, beauty contests, horse shows or patriotic parade.

Heavy traffic in the streets of the city are not to be expected in Carbondale’s Fourth of July holiday. Reports from the Daily Egyptian said people lost their lives in traffic accidents or injuries while doing fireworks display in Jackson County. News articles from the Daily Egyptian reported on illegal fireworks used to cause tragedies in Illinois. 

There were complains about this legislative act. An editorial of the Daily Egyptian on July 9,  1974, said: “the Fourth of July has now passed, and we may never see another like it because of a federal ban on firecrackers, our next Fourth of July may be a silent one.”

Using fireworks is still illegal in Illinois, in contrast with surrounding states. 

However, what remains the same are people picnicking, swimming, boating and watching fireworks at night. The places people normally went in the day included: Campus Lake, Giant City State Park, Anna City Park, Crab Orchard Lake, Lake Murphysboro, and lake Marion. For watching fireworks displays, sometimes they went to SIU Arena, University Abe Martin Field or even University Mall open space, which was sponsored by different clubs in the Carbondale area. 

Today, people spend their July 4 cooking out, swimming and watching fireworks. Among those one thing stays the same: people continue to celebrate this summer holiday regardless of how.

Staff reporter Tahereh Rahimi can be reached at trahimi@dailyegyptian.com.

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