7 Weird, Offbeat Fourth of July Parades


Eating hot dogs, wearing patriotic clothing, and watching fireworks may be the quintessential Fourth of July experience, but some Americans celebrate Independence Day in zanier, more atypical ways. From a boom box parade to a pet parade, these seven offbeat, eccentric Fourth of July parades might make you reconsider how you spend the Fourth.


For the past 30 years, Willimantic, Connecticut has hosted an annual Boom Box Parade on July 4. Why boom boxes? Well, it was a matter of necessity: In 1986, no marching bands were available to perform in a Memorial Day parade, so the town had to get creative. Willimantic resident Kathleen Clark suggested that the local radio station, WILI, play marching band music while parade participants carry boom box radios tuned to WILI. Since the town’s first boom box parade—which happened on the Fourth of July rather than Memorial Day—thousands of people have celebrated Independence Day by wearing red, white, and blue and carrying a radio tuned to WILI.


Rather than watch parade participants march or stand on a float, some Atlantans spend their Fourth of July morning watching 60,000 people run a 10k race. Started in 1970, the Peachtree Road Race is the largest 10k in the world. One hundred and fifty thousand spectators camp out around different spots of the race to watch and encourage the runners. And everyone celebrates both the Fourth of July and the end of the race at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.


Since 1984, residents of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina have celebrated Independence Day with a Boat Parade. Thousands of people gather to watch the boats (which are decorated with patriotic colors), eat food, and wait for the fireworks display. It costs just $5 to enter your boat in the parade, and the best-decorated boats get a prize. Due to high tide safety concerns, this year’s Fourth of July Boat Parade will be held, for the first time ever, on Saturday, July 2 instead.


If you’re an animal lover, you’ll probably love Bend, Oregon’s Fourth of July Pet Parade. Since the 1930s, kids and their pets have participated in this parade, which has included everything from horses, dogs, and goats to badgers, chickens, and baby coyotes. Some kids wear costumes and bring stuffed animals in lieu of a real animal, and there are water pools and shaded areas to make sure that the animals don’t overheat. More than 8000 people watch and participate in the annual Pet Parade.


Because their parade begins at midnight, Gatlinburg, Tennessee boasts the “First Independence Day Parade In The Nation.” The Midnight Parade has occurred for over 40 years and despite its start time, attracts 80,000 spectators. The parade itself features marching bands and floats, and the spectators are seriously enthusiastic—some people camp out on the sidewalk the morning of July 3 to get a good spot.


At the West Seattle Fourth of July Kids Parade, you won’t see big floats and bombastic marching bands. Instead, kids walk, ride scooters, or bike along the route, while parents push younger kids in strollers or wagons. Hundreds of families in West Seattle’s North Admiral neighborhood participate, and some kids decorate their bikes and wagons with red, white, and blue. After the parade, families can picnic and enter wheelbarrow and three-legged races at Hamilton Viewpoint Park.


In Aptos, California, a town about 40 miles south of San Jose, you’ll find the World’s Shortest Parade, which spans a whopping two city blocks. Following a pancake breakfast, the 0.6-mile parade begins at 10 a.m. and features antique cars, floats under 13 feet high, bicyclists, walkers, music, and decorated trucks. After the parade, celebrators head to a Party in the Park to eat, play games, and celebrate Independence Day at Aptos Village Park.

Oscar Mayer Is Renting Out the Wienermobile on Airbnb For Overnight Stays


Oscar Mayer is about to make all of your hot dog dreams come true. To celebrate National Hot Dog Day (today), the meat-industry titan has listed its legendary Wienermobile on Airbnb for overnight stays. Mark your calendars for July 24, when reservation opportunities will go live throughout the day, with prices starting at $136 per night.

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile on Airbnb

The 27-foot-long locomotive hot dog, parked in Chicago, can accommodate two people and includes a sofa bed, sitting area, and outdoor space with a bathroom and “hot dog picnic zone” where you can lounge in Adirondack chairs while enjoying a savory snack. The 'mobile will also be packed with all the hot dog amenities you didn’t know you needed: Highlights include a mini fridge stocked with hot dogs and Chicago-style fixings, a custom Wienermobile art piece by Chicago artist Laura Kiro, and an Oscar Mayer roller grill that you get to keep forever. And that’s not the only souvenir: each guest will also receive a welcome kit with as-yet-unidentified “hot dog-inspired accessories.”

Other features include air conditioning, free parking, breakfast, a hair dryer, and the essentials: towels, bed sheets, soap, shampoo, and toilet paper.

Interior of Wienermobile on Airbnb

Interior of Wienermobile on Airbnb

The booking dates overlap with Chicago’s famed Grant Park music festival Lollapalooza, which takes place from August 1 through 4. The lineup this year includes Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, The Strokes, and Kacey Musgraves, to name a few. What better way to stay nourished and well-rested after a musical marathon than in a cozy, oblong automobile filled with meat?

If you can't book a Wienermobile getaway, you can still celebrate July as National Hot Dog Month by hosting your own hot dog picnic wherever you are (just make sure you know the proper way to plate, dress, serve, and chow down on a plate full of frankfurters).

Check out the full listing on Airbnb.

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The Proper Way to Eat a Hot Dog

martinedoucet/iStock via Getty Images
martinedoucet/iStock via Getty Images

Attention America: you're probably eating hot dogs the wrong way, which is pretty embarrassing when you consider how much you love them.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, a part of the American Meat Institute, has an official etiquette guide for hot dog-eating, in order to do the summer staple justice. Surprisingly, many of the rules are intended to prevent people from getting too fancy with their franks.

How to plate your hot dog

No need for fancy garnishes—keep the presentation simple. Sticking with the laid-back theme, be sure to only use plain buns or those with poppy or sesame seeds. Even if they're your favorite, the council's website says "sun-dried tomato buns or basil buns are considered gauche with franks," so you might want to stay away.

How to Dress your hot dog

Dressing your hot dog is also a bigger deal than you might think. First, there's an order to follow. Wet condiments (mustard or chili, for example) go on first, followed by chunky ingredients—if you're putting onions or sauerkraut on your hot dog, this is the time to do it. Next comes cheese. Spices, such as pepper or celery salt, come last.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council also has rules about ketchup, much to the dismay of Internet commenters. According to the council, no person over the age of 18 should top their hot dog with ketchup, despite the fact that over half of all Americans use the condiment. Former council president Janet Riley (the so-called "Queen of Wien") is shocked by this: "Ketchup’s popularity was the big surprise, considering our etiquette rules—and ketchup’s notable absence from regional hot dog favorites like the Chicago Dog and the New York Dog."

How to serve your hot dog

According to the Council, always use low-maintenance dishes. Paper plates are preferable, but any everyday dish will do. Want to eat your hot dog off fine china? Sorry, that's a faux pas. Finally, if you're serving cocktail wieners, use colored toothpicks instead of plain ones. Cocktail forks are in poor taste, according to Riley.

How to eat your hot dog

Because hot dogs are such casual foods, you should never use a fork and knife. Instead, always use your hands for any hot dog on a bun. While you're at it, make sure you take no more than five bites to finish your frank (although seven is acceptable for foot-longs). Make sure you eat every part of the hot dog, including any leftover parts of the bun.

Finally, make sure your beverage of choice doesn't outshine the food. Wine shouldn't be paired with hot dogs. Instead, opt for beer, soda, lemonade, iced tea … really, anything that doesn't clash with your non-ketchup topping.

How to clean up after your hot dog meal

If you find yourself covered in mustard (or whatever else you put on your hot dog that isn't ketchup), there's also a way to clean up. Use paper napkins to clean your face—cloth napkins are never okay—but make sure that you lick off any condiments that you find on your fingers.

Finally, if you attend a hot dog barbecue, you don't send a thank you note. While a thoughtful gesture, the council notes that it "would not be in keeping with the unpretentious nature of hot dogs."

Want more advice from the council? The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council put together this handy video, featuring the Queen of Wien herself, boasting all the rules, some patriotic music, and a couple great food puns.

This story originally ran in 2015.