2014-4-July-fireworks-in-Hobokan-NJ.jpgIndependence Day is an uniquely American holiday, replete with examples of exactly what happens when you give freedom to a rag-tag group of descendants of fanatics, misfits, debtors, dreamers and people relocated against their will.

There's Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, held at the fast food restaurant's original location on New York City's Coney Island every year since about 1972. The world hot dog eating record is held by Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., who ate 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes — a feat that at best can be considered bewildering.

You're Wearing What?

In Crested Butte, Colo., scientists from the 86-year-old Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory parade forward, then backward down the town's main street in outfits fashioned from the football-sized leaves of the skunk cabbage plant.

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Some wear clothing underneath the vegetation. Others don't … leaving spectators to wonder which is more unusual: the fact that grown professionals are dressed in foliage or that they are playing an odd medley of instruments — trombones, kazoos, pots and pans.

And even though Americans will pay the highest Fourth of July gasoline prices in six years, there will be no shortage of celebrations nationwide.

People love to party on Independence Day, which Hedonometer, a big data analytics project, describes as one of the happiest days of the year. Conducted jointly by the University of Vermont and MITRE Corp., the Hedonometer maintains a repository of approximately 10,000 words, each ranked on a scale of one to nine for its relative indication of happiness. Each day, it runs a random sampling of some 50 million tweets (about 100 gigabytes of data) through an analytics engine that looks for those words. 

On July 4th, there are a lot of tweets about freedom, independence, family, friends, sun, fun and beaches. How that happiness will be affected by this year's hurricane warnings for the US East Coast remains to be seen. But it's safe to assume most people will celebrate anyway, indoors or out.

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Of course, not all Independence Day parties end as happily as they begin.