We’ve come a long way since last 4th of July, when Los Angeles was shut down at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. Things may never entirely shift back to normal—COVID-19 is still a serious health risk, and mutations of the virus like the new Delta variant continue to raise concerns—but life here is a lot closer to normal than it was last year. 

The United States of America is turning 245 on Sunday, and that brash new republic that defied convention in 1776 by rejecting the British monarchy has weathered a lot of storms in nearly two and half centuries.

The original Fourth of July celebration was a cross between the traditional festivities for the king’s birthday: church bells, processions and speeches; and Guy Fawkes Day: bonfires and fireworks (a public display of fireworks was part of the first official Fourth of July celebration in Boston in 1777). 

Independence Day was declared a holiday in 1870, but it only became an official federal holiday in the patriotic and paranoid build up to WWII. The three day holiday expanded to four days at some point, and rapidly became a holiday highlight of the American year—until COVID-19. All Los Angeles County beaches were closed last July 4th. Community parades, picnics, and fireworks displays were cancelled.

Parks, beaches and businesses are open again. Fireworks are back at Pacific Palisades and Marina Del Rey, but not Santa Monica College. Unfortunately, the hazards that accompany fireworks are also back. 

The Los Angeles County Fire Department is reminding everyone that backyard fireworks are illegal throughout the Santa Monica Mountains and on all county beaches, and that fire risk is dangerously high this summer. 

This is not the time for tiki torches, sparklers, or any kind of unconfined outdoor flame. A Malibu neighborhood had a fire scare on the night of June 26, when a sky lantern—a tiny hot air balloon made of paper and illuminated and powered by an open flame—landed in the ravine behind a house and ignited brush. Speedy response by firefighters prevented this incident from becoming a disaster. 

And speaking of lights in the sky, Topangans who remember when the Canyon was a UFO hotspot in the 1970s and ’80s, may be interested in the federal government’s long promised UFO report. The nine-page report only covers a limited number of recent incidents involving military sightings of UAP, or unidentified aerial phenomena (renamed, one suspects, in a vain attempt to avoid the images of aliens the original acronym evokes). The conclusion? There really may be something out there, and whatever they are, and whatever acronym is employed to describe them, they remain unidentified. Read the report here: www.dni.gov

After a week of hot, humid weather, the holiday weekend forecast should come as a relief: a few degrees cooler and around 20 percent drier. Expect big crowds everywhere this 4th of July weekend, as Angelenos make up for lost time. Beachgoers, hikers and bikers should plan to go early. Anyone planning to travel this weekend should allow for plenty of extra time. Holiday beach traffic is a nuisance for canyon residents, but it’s a mark of how far we have come on the road back to normal.

Here at TNT, we’re celebrating the 4th with backyard picnic ideas, family campfire recipes, and some great books, including a look at women in detective fiction. 

Whether you are celebrating in the backyard or the beach, staying home or setting off on a long postponed vacation far from home, we wish all of our readers a happy Independence Day! 

Stay safe, be well.