Herald/CATRINA RAWSON - Lighter fluid and charcoal is for sale as customers shop Thursday at Walmart in Harker Heights. Fireworks are banned in Bell and Coryell counties this year, but many residents are shopping for patriotic items to celebrate Independence Day. Picnics and barbecues are a popular way to observe the holiday.

By Colleen Flaherty

Killeen Daily Herald

Americans will spend more money this July 4 than last on patriotic merchandise and festivities.

About 20 percent of Americans will shell out presidential notes to celebrate Uncle Sam, up from 16 percent last year, according to the National Retail Federation's annual Independence Day survey conducted by BIGresearch.

Killeen resident and mobile business owner Shaun Null said this week that for the first time in recent memory, he and his family will travel out of town for July 4, to a family reunion in Winnie.

"Usually we stay close to home and go to Fort Hood and watch the fireworks," he said. Being close to family for the holiday will cost three days' worth of food and lodging, plus the cost of fueling his large SUV all the way to the Houston and back, he said.

Some 31 million people join Null, hitting the road or skies this three-day weekend, up from 27 million people last year, according to the federation.

In 2011, nearly 126 million people said they have a flag, up from 124 million in 2010. Eighty-nine million have U.S.-themed apparel, up from 86 million last year, and the number of people who own patriotic decor also increased significantly from 2010, to 62 million from 56 million.

More than 64 percent of respondents will host or attend a cookout or picnic, up from about 62 percent last year.

But not all Americans are spending more this year.

Some 44 percent plan to watch fireworks or attend a community celebration, according to the federation, including Fort Hood spouse Raquel Tamayo.

She'll relax at home on Monday, "then take the kids to see fireworks at (Fort) Hood."

Contact Colleen Flaherty at colleenf@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.

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