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June 16, 2003

Colonial Williamsburg Celebrates July 4th with a Memorable Weekend of Programs, Displays, Demonstrations, Fireworks

Colonial Williamsburg’s Independence Day this year celebrates the momentous news arriving from Philadelphia in 1776: a dozen British colonies have followed Virginia’s lead and chosen the path to open rebellion and revolution.

Fourth of July festivities begin in the 18th-century capital of Virginia at 10 a.m. at the Governor’s Palace Gardens in the Historic Area when Patrick Henry holds a public audience to speak on American independence. At 11:30 a.m. “A Salute to the States” on Market Square encompasses the Williamsburg militia, and the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums stage a rousing ceremony of martial music, cannon salutes and Revolutionary-era flags representing each of the 13 original colonies.

The re-enactment of the first official reading of the Declaration of Independence in the City of Williamsburg at noon on the steps of the Courthouse of 1770 recalls the principles and ideals that first took root in Williamsburg and gave birth to the nation.

After the adoption and the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, copies were dispatched from Philadelphia to the various states “with all possible speed.” Although there is no indication exactly when news of the Declaration or a copy of it first reached Virginia, the earliest official action occurred on July 20, 1776, when the newly elected Council of State declared that both Williamsburg newspapers should publish the full text of the Declaration and that it should be proclaimed by the sheriff of each county at the courthouse door on the first court day after the sheriff received a copy.

Colonial Williamsburg’s July 4 celebration continues at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. with “The Roots and Branches of American Music” in the Hennage Auditorium of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Guests are invited to celebrate the diversity of American music with folk musician Bob Zentz. This fun concert, presented with a sense of history, humanity and humor, explores the origins of American songs and tunes, as the stories behind the musical instruments on which they are played. The one-hour program is included in all Colonial Williamsburg admission tickets but requires a free reservation, which can be made at any Colonial Williamsburg ticket location.

The Historic Area’s Market Square swells with excitement during a new hour-long program as the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums and a baroque trumpet group fill the evening air with rousing 18th-century music at 8:15 p.m. as a precursor to the evening fireworks finale.
An Independence Day show of spectacular aerial fireworks lights up the Williamsburg sky at 9:15 p.m. concluding the Fourth of July celebration.

The Fourth of July Weekend festivities continue Saturday, July 5:

  • 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. “To Protect American Independence: Military Activities at the Powder Magazine.” Guests are invited to explore special displays, demonstrations and interpretations that tell the story of the American military of the Revolutionary War.
  • 10 a.m.- noon and 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. “Children’s Games and Activities” Palace Green. Young guests are invited to participate in 18th-century children’s games and activities. (These activities will be repeated from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 6).
  • 10:35 a.m. “A Public Audience with Patrick Henry” in the Governor’s Palace Gardens. Mr. Henry speaks on the importance of American liberty.
  • 11:30 a.m. “The Art of Military Music” in the Hennage Auditorium. Join us for a special program highlighting military signal instruments interspersed with classical repertoire from the 16th through 18th centuries utilizing trumpets, kettledrums, fifes and drums. Guests learn how Revolutionary War troops communicated and received orders. (Program is included in admission, but requires a free reservation that can be made at any Colonial Williamsburg ticket location).
  • 2 and 3:30 p.m. “Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence” at the Kimball Theater. Thomas Jefferson discusses the surrounding events and his involvement in writing the Declaration of Independence.
  • 7:30 p.m. “Jefferson and Adams” at the Kimball Theater. Howard Ginsberg’s three-character stage play tells the story of the turbulent 50-year friendship through the correspondence of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Abigail Adams. (This program will be repeated Sunday, July 6 at 2 and 4 p.m.)

    Sunday, July 6

  • 11 a.m. “A Friend in Need” in the Governor’s Palace Gardens. The Marquis de Lafayette discusses his involvement in the War for Independence and the vital support of the French army and navy in the American victory at Yorktown.
  • 2 p.m. “The First Lady Greets the Children” in the Hennage Auditorium. Martha Washington greets children and their adult friends to discuss topic of interest. (Program is included in admission, but requires a free reservation that can be made at any Colonial Williamsburg ticket location.)
  • 4 p.m. “The First Lady’s Wardrobe” in the Hennage Auditorium. Martha Washington relives important events from her life as she remembers the various fashions she wore over the years. (Program is included in admission, but requires a free reservation that can be made at any Colonial Williamsburg ticket location).

    During this exciting holiday week Colonial Williamsburg is honoring service to America by proudly recognizing the men and women who work so hard to protect our way of life today. United States active, reserve, retired military members and veterans with valid ID or discharge documents, and their families will receive free admission to Colonial Williamsburg July 4 -10. Step back in time as our honored guests to be inspired by all the sights, sounds, tastes and experiences that gave birth to our great and proud nation.

    Colonial Williamsburg offers a Fourth of July Hotel Package July 3-4 that includes two nights’ accommodations; a Length of Stay Pass only available to Colonial Williamsburg hotels guests that includes Historic Area admission and 50 percent off all evening programs for $29 adults and $14.50 for children. In addition, package guests will experience Colonial Williamsburg’s “Evening Picnic in the Palace Gardens” on the Fourth of July where they will receive priority seating for the picnic and entertainment. The picnic includes music and games for guests as they await the spectacular fireworks. The packages begin at $89 per person, per night based on double occupancy.

    Known worldwide as the nation’s largest living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg recently was recognized as the “Best Historic Site” by readers of Southern Living magazine for the seventh straight year. Colonial Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free (800) HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg on the Internet at

    Media Contact:
    Lorraine C. Brooks
    (757) 220-7280

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