7 July 4th Traditions from Around the Nation

This weekend, people across the United States will be celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with fireworks displays, picnics, and parades.  Some communities celebrate in other ways that you may not be familiar with.

Murrells Inlet, South Carolina: Parade of Boats

Many communities have a Fourth of July parade. Murrells Inlet has one as well, but it is held in the local creek as boats line up to be decorated, spectated, and appreciated. This year's annual boat parade will begin at 5PM, which is high tide. The annual event has been held since 1984. In recent years there have been as many as 125 registered parade entries, with more boats joining in at the last minute.

Mescalero, New Mexico: Puberty Rites

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At the Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico, Independence Day celebrations include a coming-of-age ceremony for teenage girls.

On the first and the last days of the public portion of the ceremony, each girl runs four times around a basket filled with sacred items of the creation, symbolizing the four stages of life set by the White Painted Woman. Each night, the girls, godmothers and singers enter the Holy Lodge, or Ceremonial Teepee, where the girls dance and singers beat the rhythm with deer-hoof rattles.

The ceremonies are open to the public. The reservation also hosts an annual rodeo on July fourth. See a video of the ceremony.

New England: Salmon

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The tradition of eating salmon on the Fourth of July goes back to the beginnings of the holiday in New England. The date coincides with salmon running thick in the rivers during midsummer in Maine and other New England states. In recent years, Atlantic salmon are declining, but New Englanders stay with the traditional meal; they just tend to eat Alaskan or Pacific salmon these days. What started as the tradition of "eating locally" is now just "tradition". If you'd like to try a little bit of New England in your holiday, here's a recipe.

San Francisco: The Mimes Return

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Every year, the San Francisco Mime Troupe opens their performing season on July 4th with a free show. This year's production is called "The Wall." The experimental theater group was founded in 1959, and has performed in San Francisco city parks since winning an obscenity case in 1963. The San Francisco Mime Troupe does not perform silently or paint their faces white, but their productions are movement-based. See a a sample of their work in this video from their 2008 production "Red State".

Coney Island: Hot Dogs

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It can be said that hot dogs are a traditional food across the nation on the Fourth of July, but in Coney Island, the Fourth of July means Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. It's probably the best-known of all competitive eating challenges, and draws world-class eaters.

New Orleans: Essence Music Festival

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More than a quarter-million people attended the annual Essence Music Festival in New Orleans last year. The event has been held annually since 1995, sponsored by Essence magazine. The music lineup for this year includes Beyonce, Lionel Richie, Al Green, Salt N Pepa, Anita Baker, Solange, En Vogue, and quite a few other stars scheduled for this weekend.

South Central Kentucky: Computer Trap Shoot

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For about a decade now, a group of friends in south central Kentucky have used the Fourth of July as an occasion to have some fun with electronic equipment that is obsolete or beyond repair. They gather these items all year long, then take them deep into the wilderness of central Kentucky each Independence Day. The components are launched into the air and used for target practice, which is both a sporting event and a way to vent frustration over hi-tech workplace annoyances. See another video here.

How does your community celebrate the Fourth of July?

10 Animal Webcams You Can Watch Right Now

Thanks to webcams, you can keep a close eye on animals like Mei Xiang.
Thanks to webcams, you can keep a close eye on animals like Mei Xiang.
Ron Cogswell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

You don’t have to trek deep into nature or take a trip to a zoo to witness the wonders of nature. Sites like explore.org maintain a collection of animal livestreams, and many individual institutions keep their critter cams up and running throughout the day. Here are a few of our favorite animal webcams, which you might want to bookmark.

1. Bella the Hummingbird

An Allen’s hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) has been returning to the same ficus tree in Southern California to build nests and raise her chicks since 2005. The anonymous homeowner named her Bella and installed a camera to share the nesting activity with everyone in 2012. You can watch Bella live as she tends to her nest, keeping the tiny eggs warm until they hatch.

2. Farm Animals at Flying Skunk Farm

If you’ve ever craved the experienced of a working farm without having to do the chores, you can load the live barnyard webcam at Flying Skunk farm in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The farm raises chickens, ducks, geese, and goats. This webcam has a microphone to capture the honks, clucks, crows, and general poultry cacophony, which can be a nice background for your web surfing.

3. Rescue Kittens

Life isn't great for feral cats. Kittens born in the wild have abysmal survival rates, and those that survive to adulthood aren’t used to humans, making them difficult to find homes for. To bring down the numbers of feral cats, some rescue groups run TNR (trap, neuter, return) programs—and in British Columbia, TinyKittens teamed up with Langely Animal Protection Society to do just that. The goal is to prevent cats from getting pregnant, but when TinyKittens finds a pregnant feral cat, the facility takes her in, caring for her and her kittens so they're acclimated to humans. When the kittens are ready, they go to loving homes, and mom is spayed and released. You can watch the kittens acclimate to indoor life here.

4. Future Service Dogs

A woman in an army uniform holds a black puppy
This very good dog will one day help army veterans.
Jim Greenhill, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Take a peek inside the Warrior Canine Connection's Puppy Enrichment Center with this live cam, which features future service dogs who will one day help wounded veterans reconnect with their lives and loved ones.

5. Marine Life at Folger Pinnacle Reef

An underwater live webcam can show us many surprises. Ocean Networks Canada has a webcam 75 feet under the sea, keeping an eye on the Folger Pinnacle Reef off Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The only light available most of the time is what filters down from the surface, but at night, the researchers controlling the reef cam turn on underwater lights for five minutes out of every hour for your viewing pleasure. Divers periodically clean and service the camera. It sits on a platform with a number of scientific instruments that allow the researchers to monitor the area, which is a rockfish conservation zone.

6. Bald Eagles

A pair of bald eagles selected a tulip poplar tree at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., to build their nest in 2014 and have been using it ever since. The eagles are named Mr. President and The First Lady. The American Eagle Foundation has cameras trained on the nest.

7. Giant Pandas

Thanks to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park’s panda cam, you can watch Tian Tian and Mei Xiang spend their days lazing about, noshing on bamboo and playing in the grass. The cameras stream 24/7, so you can watch the two pandas at any time.

8. African Penguins

Two African penguins
Waddle on over to your computer to watch African penguins.
WallyPhotography/iStock via Getty Images

The San Diego Zoo has a healthy flock of African penguins—one of the most endangered types of penguins. You can watch the dapper birds flap around here. Keep a close eye on the water, too, and you may spot a leopard shark swimming around.

9. Jellyfish

Need a moment or two of zen? Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jelly cam. The sea nettles glide through the water, creating what almost looks like a choreographed routine of pulses and swirls. Be thankful you’re just viewing these jellyfish from the comfort of your own couch—they use their flowy tentacles to sting and paralyze prey.

10. Giraffes

Thanks to the Houston Zoo, you can spend hours watching giraffes mill about in the company of zebras and ostrich. Viewers can even take turns controlling the camera’s angle, so you may have to be patient if someone gets a little unwieldy.

6 Cat Breeds With Wild Roots

Nataliia Pyzhova, iStock via Getty Images
Nataliia Pyzhova, iStock via Getty Images

Throughout history, people have tried to bring wild cats like Servals, Caracals, and even lions and tigers into their home. And while it perhaps goes without saying, we'll say it anyway: Attempting to domestic an animal that’s meant to be wild can have some pretty serious consequences. Still, over time, breeders have managed to bring together the wild and domestic in these distinct breeds.

1. Savannah

A Savannah cat
Jason Douglas, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A cross between a house cat and an African Serval, Savannahs are typically tall and lean with distinct dark spots and pointed ears. And as far as their personality goes, they are often likened to dogs because they tend to be adventurous, affectionate, and highly curious. The first Savannah was born in 1986, and the breed is now recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) as a championship breed, which means they are able to compete in TICA-sanctioned shows.

When cross-breeding a Serval and a house cat, the subsequent generations of a Savannah are referred to as F1, F2, F3, and so on. If you’re thinking about buying a Savannah, it’s important to see if your home state even allows them as pets, as some consider them too wild. You can check out the rules and regulations by heading to Hybrid Law.

2. Bengal

A Bengal Cat
Seregraff, iStock via Getty Images Plus

A cross between a domestic cat and an Asian leopard cat (ALC), Bengals tend to be very curious, very active, and—when they finally settle down—loving. As far as their physical appearance, Bengals usually have short, soft coats with spots that are often likened to leopards.

The breed as we know it began with cat breeder Jean Mill, who crossed ALCs with domestic cats in 1963. They were accepted as a new breed in 1986 by the TICA and gained championship status in 1991.

3. Toyger

A Toyger cat
Seregraff, iStock via Getty Images Plus

A cross between domestic shorthairs and Bengals, Toygers are as close as you’ll get to having a real tiger basking in the sunlight of your home. According to TICA, breeders are still working on getting these felines' stripes just right. But for now, these pint-size tigers are known for loving quality time with their human counterparts, being laid back, and being very intelligent. Some people even train them to walk on a leash.

4. Chausie

Chausie cat
Tania Wild, iStock via Getty Images Plus

The Chausie is a result of hybrids of a Jungle Cats (Felis chaus) breeding with a domestic cats. While there have been cases of this happening for a long time, the first recorded instance was in 1990. These felines can grow to be 18 inches tall and can weigh up to 30 pounds. Chausies are highly intelligent, and because of that, this is not the cat for you if you plan to leave them alone for extended periods of time. According to TICA, this tall and long-bodied cat is high-energy, can be trained to walk on a leash, and loves to socialize with its humans.

5. Cheetoh

A cheetoh cat
LealeaG, iStock via Getty Images

The name "Cheetoh cat" probably brings up the image of a laid back cartoon cheetah hocking cheese puffs, but it's also a fairly new breed of house cat. According to the International Cheetoh Breeders Association, the Cheetoh is an attempt to create a breed that looks like a wild cat with the gentleness of a house cat. They’re a cross between Ocicats (which don't technically have wild roots, but instead get their name from their close resemblance to Ocelots) and Bengals.

These Cheetohs typically weigh between 15–23 pounds and come in a variety of colors, ranging from sienna with black and brown spots to white with gold spots. While they may look like cats you’d find stalking prey out in the jungle, Cheetohs are very friendly and bring together excellent traits from both breeds. While each one is unique, these cats tend to be energetic, intelligent, friendly, and like to stay busy.

6. Serengeti

Serengeti cat
KrissiLundgren, iStock via Getty Images

The goal of breeding the Serengeti Cat is to produce a cat that resembles the wild Serval without having any actual Serval blood. The first Serengeti Cat was bred by Karen Sausman in the ’90s by crossing a Bengal and an Oriental Shorthair. However, its lineage does include the Asian leopard cat, whose genes contributed to its Bengal Cat ancestor.

Serengeti Cats have long ears and legs like a Serval, and a neck that does not taper where it meets the head. They are agile, active, and vocal. According to the TICA, these cats may take some time to warm up to you, but once they do, they’ll want to be with you all the time.

Before you go ahead and purchase one of these felines, it’s important to check to make your state allows them as pets. You should, of course, check with specific breed organizations before you select a breeder or adopt at an exotic cat show. But another great alternative is to check with your local shelter for a cat that desperately needs a home.

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