Fireworks and Ice Cream

July starts off with a bang for most Americans with the celebration of the anniversary of our nation’s independence on July 4th.   Many Americans celebrate with parades, backyard barbecues, and fireworks.  This custom dates back to 1777 when Philadelphians adjourned the meeting of the Continental Congress to celebrate the previous year’s signing of the Declaration of Independence with gunshots, bonfires, bells and fireworks.  Congress officially established Independence Day, July 4th, as a national holiday in 1870.


July tends to be hot for most areas of the United States, so what better way to tolerate the hot weather than with ice cream.  President Ronald Reagan decreed July as National Ice Cream Month in 1984.  At the same time, he also designated the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Cone Day.    The origin of ice cream is a little uncertain with no specific date or inventor being credited with its discovery.    However, references to ice cream (or something similar) date back to Alexander the Great who enjoyed snow and ice flavored with nectar and honey.  According to the International Dairy Food Association, the first official reference to ice cream in America was noted in a letter written in 1774 by a guest of Maryland governor, William Bladen, and the first advertisement for ice cream appeared in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1777.    The International Dairy Food Association reports that the top five flavors of ice cream consumed in the United States are vanilla, chocolate, Neapolitan, strawberry, and cookies n’ cream.    The United States Department of Agriculture reveals that the United States leads the world in the annual production of ice cream and similar frozen desserts at about 1.6 billion gallons, which requires about 8% of the milk produced in the United States.


Across the Atlantic, in Europe, the focus is on The Tour de France, probably the world’s most renowned bicycle race that occurs during a three-week period in July.  Created as an almost pie in the sky dream to promote publicity for the L’Auto newspaper, the Tour de France began after two men, Geo Lefevere and Henri Desgrange, came up with the idea in 1902.  Their plan was to host a six-day bicycle race around the countryside of France.  The first actual Tour de France took place the next year, in 1903, a six-stage race lasting 2,428 kilometers.


As unlikely as it first seemed, the Tour de France has been going strong for a long time.  This year’s Tour de France runs from Saturday, July 7 until Sunday, July 29, 2007.  It is the 94th Tour de France and will be divided into a prologue with 20 stages and cover a distance of 3,550 kilometers.  For the first time ever, the race will begin in London.  It is composed of 20 stages which contain the following geographic profiles:  eleven flat stages, 7 mountain stages, 1 medium mountain stage, and 2 individual time-trial stages. The race also includes two mandatory rest days that are built into the racing tour schedule.  Twelve new-stopover towns are included in this year’s tour including Canterbury, Marseille, Monpellier, Albi, and Cognac before finishing on the Champs-Elysses in Paris.  This year there will be 176 cyclists competing for the Tour de France title as long as none are eliminated due to “doping” charges.  The Tour de France 2006 was left without an official winner when Floyd Landis tested positive for the use of synthetic testosterone.  Landis is still awaiting a decision from the arbitration panel on the outcome of last year’s race.


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