Patriotic fervor spread across Long Island in 1976, as the nation prepared for its Bicentennial celebration. And after months of suspense, when the Fourth of July finally arrived, countless events were held all around New York to commemorate this special day. Let’s take a look back at this memorable year in Long Island’s history.
1976 will be remembered as the year that our nation celebrated Independence Day for an entire twelve months. Sure, there was other things going on that made the year memorable. There were Summer Olympics held in Montreal and a Presidential election back home, Peter Frampton released Frampton Comes Alive (part of which was recorded at the Long Island Arena) and the Apple Computer Company was formed, but it was the Bicentennial that was on everyone’s mind, young and old, primarily because it was, well … inescapable.
Suffice to say, anything that could be colored red, white and blue – whether it be food or toys or clothing or cars – started appearing on the market at the beginning of the year, even a little before in some cases. Every company sought to proudly portray how American they were in their advertisements in radio, TV and print ads. Television stations were filled with historical retrospects, educational shows and other patriotic programming. Schools prepared stage plays and pageants, and communities prepared for parades, firework shows and other extravagant celebrations. In other words, utter saturation.
The Freedom Train traversed the country’s railways from April, 1975 to December, 1976, carrying hundreds of historic and pop culture items that represented America within its ten display cars, and stopping at cities across the country. You might even remember that the Long Island Railroad presented two Railroad exhibits of their own, One in Suffolk County and the other in Nassau, called the Bicentennial Heritage Trains.
When the glorious day finally arrived, all of the television stations provided day-long coverage, as people flocked to numerous locations around the island and city to start the celebration. Most of these places were utterly packed. An impressive tall ship procession took place in New York Harbor, followed by a firework display of monumental proportions. Eisenhower Park hosted a major fireworks display as well, along with just about every other public park across the island. And for those who didn’t want to deal with the crowds, many spent the holiday at block parties and backyard barbeques.
The Bicentennial arrived after the Vietnam War and Watergate, providing a momentary (in the grand scheme of things) diversion from more turbulent times. Long Islanders and the rest of the nation put aside many of their differences in 1976, choosing to instead celebrate and appreciate all of what makes America special. And quite honestly, the next celebration can’t come soon enough.
Where were you on July 4th, 1976? We hope you’ll share all of your Bicentennial memories with us in our comments section below.