The Fourth of July is always celebrated as a summer tradition of cookouts and parades amongst the backdrop of colorful fireworks displays.

Unfortunately, social distancing restrictions due to COVID-19 will drastically change the way most of us will celebrate this year.

Most parades and fireworks have been canceled this year, and cookouts still need to be kept to a minimum, but that doesn't mean that fun and festivities need to be minimized.

No matter how small your gathering, you can still celebrate the birth of our nation with good food, festive decor and fun activities while still compiling with COVID-19 re­strictions.

The fun always starts with the decorations. You can do something as simple as buying a few dollar store streamers and flags, or go full-tilt Mar­tha Stewart and create your own red, white and blue magic.

String together red, white and blue stars made from colored poster boards for a festive garland and mix it with patriotic colored string lights to set the “patriotic” mood.

Strategically place red, white and blue planters filled with red geraniums around your patio and add red, white and blue pinwheels for some extra fun.

To decorate your table, make a centerpiece of red and blue Tootsie Pops (with wrappers still on for sanitary purposes) instead of flowers. Place a small piece of styrofoam in a colorful jar or container and tightly fill in the jar with the Tootsie Pops for a fun and edible centerpiece.

Tuck napkins and plastic utensils in individual mason jars tied with patriotic ribbon and a name tag. This is a festive and easy way to have no contact distribution of utensils and the jar can do double duty as a drinking glass for lemonade that your guest can take home as a party favor.

To avoid contact while sharing food, offer snacks in individual servings. Favorite cookout snacks like chips, peanuts and pretzels can be purchased in individual serving bags. Place a variety of the individual snack bags in red, white and blue paper bags for easy grab and go snacks for neighbors and guests.

You can’t enjoy a Fourth of July cookout without serving the all-American staples of hamburgers and hot dogs.

To liven up boring burgers and dogs, try serving a Topping Bar to accompany your grilled favorites.

Offer traditional toppings like ketchup, mustard and pickles and fresh toppings like lettuce, tomato, pineapple slices, and avocado. Also offer unexpected toppings like mac and cheese, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, chili and jalapeno poppers. Feature a wide variety of toppings for your guests to create fun, new combinations.

Nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than a glass of old fashioned lemonade. If you don’t have the time to squeeze your own, you can easily turn store bought lemonade into a festive cookout treat.

Pour lemonade into a pitcher, add fresh lemon slices, and offer individual swizzle sticks of fresh strawberry.

If you are offering both spiked and virgin lemonade, keep your choices clear for guests by making the spiked lemonade traditional yellow and the virgin version pink lemonade.

For an easy dessert, make ice cream sandwiches from store bought cookies and your favorite ice cream. Try a variety of cookie flavors like chocolate, ginger snaps, shortbread, and chocolate chip. Then pair them with patriotic colored ice cream flavors like vanilla or coconut for white, strawberry or cherry chip for red, and blueberry or birthday cake for blue. These can be made a day or two in advance.

Refreeze and serve ice cream sandwiches in patriotic colored cupcake liners for easy and sanitary serving, and to avoid “dripping” while guests are eating.

This year, you will also need to find some stay at home Fourth of July activities.

To keep the kids cool and occupied, set up your own “water park.” With a few garden hose extensions, sprinklers, and a slip and slide, you can create your own backyard Water Country.

Don’t discount the fun of playing classic backyard games like cornhole and horseshoes, as both can easily be played while social distancing.

Nathan’s Hotdogs will still be having their annual July Fourth Hotdog Eating Contest, in New York, but this year with no crowds in attendance. You can either watch this world famous event on TV, or have your own at home.

If hotdogs are not your thing, try a pie eating contest, or ice cream sundae eating contest (of course, no utensils allowed) and be sure to keep contestants a safe distance apart from each other.

Public fireworks displays will surely be missed this year, however, you can still watch fireworks that will air on cable and network TV at 8 p.m. on July Fourth.

NBC will broadcast Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks, which will feature pre-recorded fireworks displays that were spread across the five boroughs of NYC to reduce crowd size.

PBS will broadcast “A Ca­pitol Fourth,” featuring the fireworks display from Washington D.C.

The Boston Pops have canceled a live performance this year, but Bloomberg Television will present “A Boston Pops Salute to Our Heros,” honoring COVID-19 frontline workers. This will feature new performances by the Pops as well as highlights from recent Boston Pops firework displays.

So far, 2020 has been a year filled with change. This Fourth of July, as a united nation, we can remember our traditions while embracing new ideas. What better way to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

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