CRANBURY, NJ – As the band finished playing a march and broke into “The Star-Spangled Banner” July 5, the crowd of several hundred gathered in Village Park became silent.

With hands over hearts and heads uncovered, men and women of all ages began to spontaneously sing the national anthem during the township's annual Independence Day celebration and fireworks display last week.

Peeking out from a backpack, a miniature American flag fluttered in the breeze, as citizens of all political stripes agreed on love of country.

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A loud round of cheers and applause punctuated the anthem’s ending.

Friends and neighbors visited and children ran throughout the park, chasing each other, and playing games as twilight began to slowly creep in.

Plainsboro Claire Burke, 19, said she comes to the celebration every year, bringing a different friend with her each time.

“I come every year with a friend usually and it’s just fun to go get ice cream and everyone’s so happy, so it’s nice to be out,” she said. “It’s a great time and is very nice.”

She also stressed the importance, in today's hyper-partisan political climate, of events that bring people together from different sides of the political aisle.

“It’s very important (in today’s atmosphere),” she said. “I think it’s nice for everyone to come together to celebrate America and be proud of our country.”

Watching the fireworks this year from outside the park, Township Committeeman Jay Taylor said that he couldn't think of any other way to mark the nation's birthday.

“There is nothing better to celebrate our united history than to see fireworks with the family, while sitting in our historic district and in the same area that (General George) Washington and his troops came through to create the best country in the world,” he said.

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