MONEY Food & Drink

America Is Going to Spend Big to Celebrate Independence

From $725 million in fireworks to $1 billion in beer, Americans will shell out a lot of money this Independence Day.

When it comes to Independence Day, Americans aren’t shy about spending money. We’ll spend $725 million on fireworks, up from $695 million last year, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. Forty-two million people will travel for the holiday, thanks to low gas prices, says AAA. We’ll spend $71.23 per person on cookouts, which is $6.6 billion total, for 700 million pounds of chicken, 190 million pounds of beef and 150 million hot dogs. And to top it off, we’ll spend $1 billion on beer.

MONEY Odd Spending

How to Get the Biggest Fireworks Bang for Your Buck

Try a combo pack.

fireworks in the backyard
National Geographic Image Collection—Alamy

Last year for the first time, Americans spent more than $1 billion on fireworks, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. The bulk of those purchases—$695 million—went to backyard displays (commercial events accounted for the rest).

If past trends are any indication, this year we’re on track to shoot off even more Roman Candles, Brocades, Peonies, and other exploding shells—not least of all because the Fourth falls on a weekend.

Fireworks vendors say that you can put on a nice DIY display for between $100 and $300. But to get the most bang for your buck (sorry—couldn’t help it), William Weimer, vice president of Phantom Fireworks, the country’s largest pyrotechnics retailer, suggests buying assortment packages. Containing multiple shells in different colors and patterns, they cost from $50 to $1,500. One of Phantom’s most popular, the Legion of Fire ($200), contains 9 shots and lasts for 51 seconds. (See it in action here.)

Check out this gallery of some of the most popular firework effects. You can get the whole shebang (sorry—did it again!) for less than $100.

  • Peony

    Doug Steakley—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

    The most common fireworks effect: a sphere that dissolves into colored stars ($25).

  • Chrysanthemum

    Zolt Levay—Getty Images/Flickr Flash

    A round burst that leaves a visible trail of light ($17 for 16 shots).

  • Dahlia

    Jeff Hunter—Getty Images

    Like a peony, but with fewer and larger stars. In this shot, it’s the blue burst at the top left ($25).

  • Palm Tree

    courtesy Phantom Fireworks Palm Tree

    A rising trunk, followed by fanned-out “fronds” ($10 and up, usually sold in combination packages).


Learn How to Photograph Fireworks From America’s Best Pyrotechnic Experts

Long exposures and wide angles are key

Photographer, and certified pyrotechnician, Lauren Grucci’s entire life revolves around fireworks. She is part of the sixth generation of “America’s First Family of Fireworks” who also happens to hold the Guinness World Record for the Largest Fireworks Display ever recorded.

Fireworks by Grucci has been family-owned for 165 years and boasts an impressive portfolio of fireworks displays, including the Dubai 2013/2014 New Years Eve world record setter, the 200th anniversary of the National Anthem Star Spangled Banner Spectacular, the Olympic Games in Beijing and Salt Lake City, and seven consecutive U.S. presidential inaugurations.

Grucci, who began photographing fireworks at the age of 17, says she’s always wanted to add a personal touch to fireworks, and “something clicked” when she was able to bring her passion for photography to the family business. TIME LightBox spoke with Grucci, who shared her tips for photographing fireworks this Fourth of July.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor: What is the most interesting fireworks show you have ever photographed?

Lauren Grucci: Back in 2008, I found myself on an undeveloped and completely empty portion of the Palm Island in Dubai capturing one of the largest displays we had done, at that time, for the opening of the Atlantis Hotel. I was alone and completely surrounded by fireworks – it was overwhelming and very emotional. Another time I was harnessed to a hops silo at the Guinness Brewery in Ireland to photograph fireworks for their 250th Anniversary where we created Arthur Guinness’ signature across the building in fireworks. It’s always a crazy situation – but never fails to be unforgettable.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor: What tips can you share for photographers shooting fireworks?

Lauren Grucci: A lot of it is timing. It helps if there is music because you can anticipate the firework choreography based on the song. The color of the firework plays a big part as well. For example, a firework that burns white is going to [necessitate] a different exposure than a firework that burns red. A lot of times, you have to compensate for the colors, and know when to change your settings.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor: What camera settings are ideal?

Lauren Grucci: Most of my images are shot with the lowest ISO and an 8-10 second exposure. Aperture depends on how many fireworks are in the sky at the time of exposure and what color they are. I use a Canon 5D Mark II and III on a tripod, always with a wide angle lens.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor: How do you know when to snap the photo?

Lauren Grucci: Being so closely involved with firework displays, I’ve learned to anticipate when a firework is going to break. When a firework is launched there is a tail that resembles an ember shooting into the sky. I usually wait 2-3 seconds after first seeing the ember before I release my shutter.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor: Where is the best place to position yourself during a fireworks show?

Lauren Grucci: It’s important to take into account the height of the fireworks, you never want to be too close – its always better to look for a wide angle. I also like to include some element of the audience or movement from objects that may frame the firework display. The photos are all pretty long exposures, so the blur of the crowd or the movement of water in a fountain can add a bit of life and context to the photo.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor: What’s the best way to improve images of fireworks?

Lauren Grucci: A remote shutter makes a huge difference in firework photography. The streak effect achieved by the long exposure is so fine that even the slightest camera shake will result in a wiggly looking firework. The less you physically handle the camera, the better.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor: Any tips for shooting fireworks if you only have an iPhone?

Lauren Grucci: I would recommend downloading an app that allows you to change the exposure on your phone. A lot of times the fireworks can be too bright and end up blowing out the whole image.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor: What is most exciting thing about photographing fireworks?

Lauren Grucci: The travel and the access. Sometimes I will find myself in locations where the public is not allowed, in some of the most beautiful countries in the world, and it always seems very surreal. It is also a challenge every time. There are a lot of elements that need to be taken into account – but when you get that perfect shot, you know you’ve learned something new.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor: Are there opportunities for firework photography enthusiasts to get work?

Lauren Grucci: We are always looking for photographers to help us document our work. For New Years Eve 2014, we worked with a team of photographers from Japan, Germany, and the US to capture a World Record setting display in Dubai as well as a display off the tallest building in the world – The Burj Khalifa. Finding new talent within fireworks photography and giving them the opportunity to join us is something we look forward to.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor: Can you explain the logistics of producing multiple, massive fireworks shows every year?

Lauren Grucci: We have a great team of people at the design office on Long Island who gear up for our busy seasons. During the Fourth of July and New Years Eve, we put in long hours and many weekends to keep up with the demand. There is also a massive team of pyro-technicians made up of hundreds of people from all over the world who travel to various locations and work extremely hard to make these shows happen. All in all, everyone appreciates the thrill that is felt when the dust settles. It is what keeps the gears turning year after to year to produce some of the worlds largest and best firework shows.

Finally, don’t get too caught up on settings and technical details. A good shot comes from practice and just a little bit of luck. Also – don’t forget to enjoy the fireworks! We love the ooo’s and ahh’s.

Lauren Grucci is a photographer based in Long Island, N.Y.

Marisa Schwartz Taylor is an Associate Photo Editor at Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.


Why June 26 Should Be a National Holiday to Honor Progress

Carlos McKnight, from Washington, D.C., waves a rainbow colored flag outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 26, 2015. The high court will decide by the end of the month whether the Constitution gives gays the right to marry. The court's actions until now have suggested that a majority of the nine justices will vote to legalize same-sex weddings nationwide. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Carlos McKnight
Andrew Harrer—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Carlos McKnight, from Washington, D.C., waves a rainbow colored flag outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 26, 2015. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Charlotte Alter covers women, culture, politics and breaking news for TIME in New York City.

It's an important date not just for gay Americans, but for us all

When several historic events happen on the exact same day, it’s a sign: June 26 should be a national holiday.

On Friday the Supreme Court ruled that gay Americans had the right to marry in every state in the country. On the exact same date two years ago, the same court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, allowing same-sex couples to access federal benefits. And when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex sexual activity should be legal in every state in the Lawrence vs Texas ruling in 2003, it did so on … June 26. It’s a coincidence, but also much more than that.

Because June 26 isn’t just an important date for gay Americans– it’s a date that symbolizes how rapidly change can happen in America, how quickly our attitudes can evolve, and how, when used correctly, our system is one that propels us all towards a more equal state.

In other words, June 26 is a date that represents what happens when America works the way it’s supposed to work. Only 11 years ago, in 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay couples to marry. In a little over a decade, gay marriage has gone from a provocative pipe dream to a legal and constitutional right. In that time, the battle has been fought in the legislatures, in the courts, and in the American national conscience.

In 2004, then-Senate candidate Barack Obama said he believed marriage was “between a man and a woman.” In 2010, he said his views on same-sex marriage were “evolving.” This morning in 2015, the White House Twitter avatar turned rainbow-colored, in celebration of the Supreme Court’s decision.

June 26 isn’t just a symbol of marriage equality or gay rights– it’s a day that commemorates a collective change of mind, the American ability to choose freedom and equality.

But wait! Isn’t June 26 a little too close to July 4? If we had two national holidays within the course of a week, wouldn’t the U.S. economy come grinding to a halt and the world implode?

Not necessarily. Just think about how glorious it would be to have two national holidays just over a week apart. It would be the perfect timing for a summer vacation, one that all Americans could enjoy with their families. Maybe they’d celebrate by taking trip to an American beach town, staying in an American hotel, eating at American restaurants. Maybe they’d fly somewhere on an American airline or grill some American burgers. Studies have shown that vacations are good for the economy, and that if everyone took their allotted vacation time, it would support 1.2 million jobs and create $21 billion in tax revenue.

June 26 and July 4 could be sister holidays– both celebrations of freedom, equality, and the promise of America.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email

MONEY Travel

5 Vacation Spots That Will Be Cheaper This Fourth of July

Michael DeYoung / Design Pics—Getty Images/First Light Fireworks over Westchester Lagoon, near downtown Anchorage, around midnight on July 4th.

Book before Sunday, June 14, when flight prices start spiking.

Want to go somewhere for the Fourth of July, but need to save a bit of money while doing it? We hear you. At Hopper, we searched for the U.S. cities where airfare prices are cheaper than usual so we can nab you a great deal for your Independence Day vacation. Following are the 5 U.S. cities where airfare prices have actually dropped for 2015! For the best deals, book before Sunday, June 14th. when flight prices start spiking. Happy travels!


If you’ve ever been curious about the wild backcountry of Alaska, perhaps this is the year to visit. We found that average flights into Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport cost just $584 — which is a good deal, considering that in 2014, airfare was $724 for the same weekend! While in Anchorage, be sure to tour the fjords of the Prince William Sound or explore the surrounding forests and mountains. Summer temperatures are generally pleasant and in the mid-60s.

New Orleans

Ray Laskowitz—Getty Images/Lonely Planet ImagesGolden hour in The French Quarter

New Orleans is a crazy party place year round, but it’s especially insane around Mardi Gras. Instead, avoid the crowds and hop on one of these cheaper-than-usual flights to New Orleans over the Fourth of July: Airfare prices are down to a low of $389 on average (normal cost: well over $500). It’ll be hot and humid, so we recommend you grab a foot-high frozen drink from Fat Tuesday and take it to the French Quarter jazz clubs to cool off.

West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach has so much more going for it than its perfect coastline (although the sugar-soft beaches don’t hurt!) A family-friendly wildlife sanctuary and zoo, the cool Norton Museum of Art, a popping performing-arts scene, and plenty of designer shopping all draw tourists to this Florida city. Surprisingly, holiday flight prices to West Palm Beach have decreased, going for just $308 this year (they were well over $400 in 2014!).


Dallas is a treat for culture hunters, with an array of great galleries, the sprawling arboretum and botanical gardens, and of course the fascinating Sixth Floor Museum/Texas School Book Depository, which explores the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Your historical visit begins with these inexpensive flights to Dallas, costing an average $374 — that’s $114 cheaper than last year, and you can often find airfare for much lower.


Gary Conner—Getty ImagesAtlanta, Centennial Olympic Park fountain

Finally on our list: Atlanta. “Hotlanta” is just that this time of year, but it’s well worth a visit, with airfare going for just $286 on average for the Fourth of July. In 2014, flights cost at least $86 more. So this is the summer to explore the Fox Theatre, the kid-approved Georgia Aquarium, and the College Football Hall of Fame (you can even pretend to be a university star player on a half-size field with a regulation goal post!).

Read next: This Is the Absolute Best Time to Book a Flight

This article originally appeared on Hopper is a travel app that tracks and predicts airfare prices.

TIME 4th of July

Watch America’s Best Fourth of July Fireworks in 1 Video

Happy birthday America.

This Fourth of July, despite the best efforts of Hurricane Arthur to disrupt proceedings, Americans gathered to launch pyrotechnics in to the sky, because freedom.

Whereas sometimes this has the capacity to go wrong, 2014 saw a wave of spectacular displays across the country.

TIME Immigration

The Family Fireworks Sellers of South Texas

Around the Fourth of July, a few families near the Mexican border devote their lives to selling sparklers

When it came time to name Nelson Zamora, his paternal Mexican grandmother had just one request: give him a name that sounds American, but is easy to pronounce in Spanish. Like many Americans with roots in Mexico, Nelson and his wife Cynthia Fuentes straddle two worlds, even if they mostly stay on one side of the border.

In Mission, Texas, a small city not far from the southern border where Nelson and Cynthia live, the demarcation between the U.S. and Mexico can seem fluid. Travelers pass back and forth, sometimes legally through a checkpoint and sometimes in the dark of night through the waters of the Rio Grande. Cynthia has seen new arrivals around town, mothers with babies looking dazed and others desperately in need of water. She helps when she can.

Every summer since 1998, Cynthia and Nelson, who were both born in Texas, have operated a stall selling fireworks for the Fourth of July. Fireworks are illegal in the state, except at this time of year and just before New Year’s Eve.

Working on 20 percent commission, the couple can earn as much as $3,000 a season. “We’ve made good money,” says Cynthia. “It’s kept us coming back.”

When they’re not selling fireworks, Cynthia runs a home-based business making and selling piñatas. Nelson drives a forklift for a citrus company, seasonal work that won’t begin again until August. To accommodate their daughter and two grandchildren who’ve come with them to the fireworks stall this year, Cynthia and Nelson built a makeshift camper in the bed of their pickup truck. They are required to stay on site 24 hours a day.

“We brought our AC from the house, the television and the DVD for the kids,” says Cynthia. “It’s fun. We’re all together and we’re talking.”

On July 4th, after the last customers have gone, Cynthia and Nelson will buy some fireworks for themselves, close up the stall and go celebrate American independence as a family.


10 Ways to Make Ribs for the Fourth of July

Grilled Short Ribs with Smoky Blackberry Barbecue Sauce
Christina Holmes Grilled Short Ribs with Smoky Blackberry Barbecue Sauce

This articleoriginally appeared on Food & Wine.

The Fourth of July is right around the corner! Get some grilling practice this weekend with these ten incredible recipes for ribs.

1. Molasses-Smoked Baby Back Ribs
What’s Tim Byres’s secret to delicious ribs? Rubbing them with a seasoned beer-based mop before cooking them in a foil packet ensures the meat is flavorful and moist.

2. Sir Winston’s Favorite Short Ribs
This savory-sweet Korean-style ribs recipe is quick and easy to make after marinating overnight.

3. Cumin-and-Coriander Grilled Lamb Ribs
“Lamb ribs are the most inexpensive and unsung part of the lamb,” says Tom Mylan, who flavors them with Middle Eastern seasonings.

4. Ribs with Hot-Pepper-Jelly Glaze
This recipe calls for three types of ribs, but it’s just as fantastic with one.

5. Grilled Short Ribs with Smoky Blackberry Barbecue Sauce
An easy blackberry sauce flavored with adobo chiles takes these ribs to another level.

6. Vadouvan-Spiced Lamb Ribs
Vadouvan, a French curry-esque spice blend, adds terrific flavor to these tender ribs.

7. Spiced Pork Ribs
These smoky, Mexican-style ribs feature a super-simple rub.

8. Grilled Apple-Marinated Short Ribs
Instead of braising, these ribs are marinated overnight in a mix of apple juice, lemon juice and soy sauce so they’re sweet, salty and tangy.

9. Grilled Short Ribs with Anchovy Vinaigrette
These thinly sliced short ribs are perfect for quick grilling.

10. Cumin-Glazed Ribs with Avocado-Pineapple Salsa
Susan Feniger’s sweet ribs are delicious with a grapefruity IPA.

MORE: 11 People You Always See When You Throw a BBQ

MORE: 19 Best BBQ Cities

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TIME food and drink

15 Juicy Burgers for the Fourth of July

Beef Burgers with Peanut-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
John Kernick Beef Burgers with Peanut-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

This article originally appeared on Food & Wine.

Here are 15 amazing burgers from F&W’s grilling experts and star chefs like Bobby Flay.

1. Beef Burgers with Peanut–Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Bobby Flay’s incredible burgers are topped with a sweet-smoky sauce made with tomato puree, ancho chile powder, chipotle in adobo sauce and peanut butter.

2. Bacon Burgers with Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce
These complex-tasting burgers feature bacon, scallions, mint and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

3. Thai Tuna Burgers with Ginger-Lemon Mayonnaise
Tod man pla, a Thai fried white fish patty, was the inspiration for these delicious tuna burgers.

4. Red Chili Burgers
Creamy Crescenza-Stracchino cheese tops these fantastic burgers.

5. Fresh and Juicy Veggie Burgers
These are the ultimate veggie burgers.

6. Barbecue–Glazed Turkey Burgers
Gwyneth Paltrow loves these burgers topped with Swiss cheese and pickled jalapeños.

7. Tuna Niçoise Burgers
Turn the classic French salad into a fantastic seafood burger.

8. Caprese Burgers
Basil, tomato and mozzarella star in these juicy burgers.

9. Crispy Quinoa Sliders
Serve these crispy patties alongside a salad, or simply as fantastic mini vegetarian burgers.

10. Spicy 50/50 Burgers
Michael Symon’s spicy cheeseburgers feature a delectable mix of sausage and ground beef.

11. Lamb Burgers with Green Harissa
These terrific burgers get their bright flavor thanks to a harissa sauce made with a mix of hot and mild chiles.

12. Sausage Burgers with Sriracha-Honey-Mustard Sauce
The spicy-sweet sauce and ground pork–sausage blend make these burgers extra-flavorful.

13. Triple Pork Burgers with Quick Cucumber Kimchi
Intensely seasoned with Asian ingredients, these pork burgers almost taste like dumpling filling.

14. Blue Ribbon Barbecue Chicken Cheeseburgers
The combination of sweet–spicy barbecue sauce and smoky bacon makes this the ideal chicken burger.

15. Black Bean Burgers
This excellent black bean burger recipe yields thick, meaty patties that stay tender.

MORE: Best Burgers in the U.S.

MORE: Best Bacon Burgers in the U.S.

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