When big holidays come there is just no place like home to celebrate them. And for me, no holiday rings more true to that than being in my hometown of Provo Utah for the 4th of July to celebrate America’s independence. The term hometown implies that it’s a small city- but Provo is quite large and the festivities that come with this holiday are unmatched anywhere else in the state.
For the few days leading up to the 4th, thousands of people will go first thing in the morning and gather on the large grassy area by the hospital to watch in wonder as all the hot balloons are filled and lifted into the sky. It is really incredible to watch so many balloons be released to glide their way over the city for the mornings events. People bring blankets and chairs and gather together to watch the process from start to finish and it is a favorite of the holiday weekend.
Of course there is a parade, but the parade itself is only part of the fun tradition of the day. Provo’s 4th of July parade is so massive and so popular that really the only way to get a seat to watch it, is to camp out along the parade route the night before. So the night before the parade the entire route becomes this amazing and fun block party where people bring out their sleeping bags, sofas, tents, tvs, bbqs, video games, etc to pass the time all night long. This block party is miles of fun for everyone to enjoy and a great way to make some new friends that will let you sit with them the next day for the parade.
Another fun part of the parade happens before with the annual fun run along the parade route. It feels like half of the city shows up to run or walk in this run and it is a blast to be part of the energy of the crowd. The route goes down the main street of the city and through downtown. Individuals, families with strollers, dogs on leashes- everyone is welcome to participate. A lot of people get really into the run and dress up as wildly as they can. The parade announcers are set up along the route and cheer on the runners as well as make some funny commentary. Meanwhile those who camped out on the street to watch the parade are just starting to wake up as you pass them.
You reach the end of the route and as you go under the finish line arch, all those who finished already are there cheering everyone else on to the end. It ends in a big park and everyone is given a medal before they can go and have some free breakfast at one of the pavilions. Even for those that rode in the stroller for the entire run get their own medal. A lot of people will finish the run and then walk back towards the end of the parade route in hopes of finding a last minute spot to watch from.
The 4th of July parade is massive! Be prepared for about 3 hours of bands playing, creative floats, balloons, waving city royalty, and so many other things. People ask why Provo has the big Independence Day and not the capital of Salt Lake City. Later in the month on July 24th, Utah celebrates its birthday of becoming a state so Salt Lake City holds all the big festivities for that day and has left the big festivities of the 4th to Provo.
After the parade, head over to the downtown area where a bunch of stalls and shops are set up in front of the county buildings. There are food trucks galore and interesting shops to explore. They have a stage where local performers of musicians and dancers will entertain. There are even a few carnival rides if you need a little thrill to the day. Also downtown is a hidden city gem of The Colonial Print Shop that is home to a Gutenberg Press and a Benjamin Franklin type press. It is a interesting look at the progression of print with live demonstrations.
When evening comes, it is time for one of the largest firework displays at the Stadium of Fire. This event always invites some big name artists to come and perform. Years past have seen Sawyer Brown, Journey, The Beach Boys, Miley Cyrus, Kelly Clarkson, and more. This year in 2023 the stage will be graced for the second time by Tim McGraw. Great music, incredible performances, and an amazing firework display make the Stadium of Fire a not to be missed part of the day.
Is it any wonder then why celebrating the 4th of July in my hometown is my favorite place to be? It is packed full of patriotic fun and tradition and nothing makes me more homesick that not being here for the celebrations.