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Enjoy a safe, happy Fourth of July

Unbelievably, the Fourth of July is already rolling around next week, signaling for many what is viewed as the midpoint of summer.

`On a Sunday this year, the day will be a time of celebrating for the most part with family gatherings, outdoor barbecues and in some areas gigantic fireworks displays, typical of the patriotic observance.

The following are some facts about the holiday you might find interesting as you ponder how you will be celebrating:

*The holiday commemorates the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776; however, it was not declared a legal holiday until 1941.

*Eleven places have "independence" in their name, the most popular Independence, Mo., with 113,000 residents.

` *Thirty places nationwide have 'liberty' in their name, the most popular Liberty, Missouri.

*Five places adopted the name 'freedom.' Freedom, Calif., with a population of 6,000 is the largest.

*There is one place named 'patriot' - Patriot, Ind., with a population of 202.

*Massachusetts was the first legislature to recognize the Fourth of July in 1781.

*In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day a holiday, albeit unpaid, for federal employees.

*Fireworks were made in China as early as the 11th century. The Chinese used their pyrotechnic mixtures for war rockets and explosives.

*Not all members of the Continental Congress supported a formal Declaration of Independence, but those who did were passionate about it. One representative rode 80 miles by horseback to reach Philadelphia and break a tie in support of independence.

*The first two versions of the Liberty Bell were defective and had to be melted down and recast. The third version rang every Fourth of July from 1778 to 1835, when, according to tradition, it cracked as it was being tolled for the death of Chief Justice John Marshall.

*The American national anthem, the "Star-Spangled Banner," always heard on the Fourth, is set to the tune of an English drinking song ("To Anacreon in Heaven").

Lastly, on a couple of food note facts, a whopping 150 million hot dogs (one for every two people) are expected to be consumed by Americans during the great Fourth of July cookouts; and the odds are better than 50-50 that the beans in your side dish of baked beans came from North Dakota, Michigan or Nebraska, which produced 60 percent of the nation's dry, edible beans in 2005.

However you decide to spend your day, enjoy and have a safe, happy Fourth of July.