My little hometown celebrates July Fourth with gusto. It’s patriotism is legendary around these parts. It kicks off with a rooten-tooten rodeo the night before. You can hear the announcer and cheers for miles.
We join together at my parent’s house in a larger city the evening before. They live near the stadium, so their house is party central. Almost everyone sports some kind of red, white, and blue apparel. Mounds of yummy treats and delicious concoctions are consumed, and the kids gather around to witness amateur fireworks and popping parachute guys. Oh, and don’t forget the snaps! When darkness comes, we break out the sparklers, and construct our glow-stick jewelry.
The sun is setting. Hurry and find your well placed lawn chair with blanket and grab your favorite treat, the light show in the sky is about to begin! (Anticipation!) The firework’s soundtrack is broadcast on the oldest radio station in town. The string of smart phones act as a sound system. No celebrating show of festively colorful explosions is complete without the songs “Coming to America,” “God Bless the USA, ” and the “William Tell Overture.” Many ohhh’s and ahhh’s are shared as we marvel at the celebrating wonderment we are witnessing in the sky. (Some kids love it, others hide under a blanket.) The comaraderie of friends and family add to the holiday excitement. We know it’s the grand finale when the sky shines unceasingly with color, and it sounds like a war zone. After a few minutes of chaos and some ear-plugging, the. show. is. over.
We take in a big sigh. (Ahhh!) We gather up our belongings and head to the house for ice cream and idle chit-chat. Once we feel like the bumper to-bumper traffic has lightened up, we head for home and hope there’s no accidents to hinder our trip. (Fingers crossed…) It’s late when we arrive home, and we collapse into bed, undressing optional.
The morning of the Fourth the boom of a vintage cannon rings through the air. (Boom, boom, boom.) The sound wakes us up, and we think, “It’s morning already?” (Many say “really?”) The fireman’s pancake breakfast begins, and the runners start the Patriot’s Race. My kids go back to sleep, but now my brain is planning out the day, so I’m up. My husband and I go stand in a very sunny breakfast line, and chit-chat with neighbor friends. After eating an early morning feast, we hurry home, wake the kids up with incessant begging and a few threats (our kids hate to wake up), and make our way to the parade. We live about a half-mile from town center on the main road, and cars are already parking in front of our house. Everyone comes home for the Fourth! It’s better to walk to the parade, because the police close the road several minutes before the parade. We sometimes take our four wheeler, and just pray they let us through! If we can’t get through, we leave it in somone’s front yard. No worries, this is a small, trusting town. We get to our reserved spot in front of an empty lot (some park unneeded vehicles up to a week before,) we’re very lucky if it’s in the shade. Homes on the parade route count their blessings, they have a premade spot. The flag waving and balloon speckled crowds eagerly line the streets. The kids in front, bag-in-hand ready for flying candy.
You hear a drum and see the flag, usually held by volunteers from one of armed forces. All stand, hand on heart, showing their quiet respect for the Stars and Stripes and the people who defend our nation. As they pass by, the crowds are brimming with excitement, and the adults take their seats. Firetrucks blow their sirens, and the candy fest begins! We see businesses and clubs display adversity and color, dignitaries wave proudly from shiny convertibles, and beauty queens in fancy formals wave prettily atop bright floats. A few synchronized marching bands add to the musical background as we see costumed dancers, tumblers and cheerleaders brave the heat and hot blacktop to perform. Horses trot by with rodeo queens on board trying to stay together. Scouts get the pooper scooper job done, reluctantly. Excessive candy is thrown and people are yelling as we witness a salt water taffy frenzy.
My son found a five gallon bucket in the truck one year, and made a candy haul. Everyone was trying to make the shot into his bucket!
When you see the antique cars and tractors and you know the parade is winding down. The police car follows the last entry signaling the end, and people disperse as they wave and chat with each other.
Some patriotic celebrators head home, but most rush to the park for the festival or the basketball three-on-three. Booths with food and other merchandise dot the park as the stage rings with locals showcasing their talents. It the place to be. Every piece of shade is taken for relief from the 100 degree heat. Neighbors crowd under the trees and tents. The snowcone line is incredibly long (mostly kids) in addition to anything food related. The fire truck sprays those (mostly kids) seeking a wet cool down. Fun inflatables are shaking with players jumping around. A train made from cut out barrels driven by a riding lawnmower weaves around like a snake as kids scream with joy. Animals are being ridden or petted. No frowns found anywhere, except maybe a pouting child. Food, buying, shade, eating, music. See and be seen. Connecting with old friends. (What a day!)
After a visit to the park, there is a mid day rodeo or a family movie matinee in the air-conditioned theater. Many are home with loved ones, barbecuing, sleeping, watching the kids run through the sprinklers or in the backyard pool. The kids (and adults) eat their well-earned candy. (Slow down or you’ll get sick!) Hopefully, no matter where one is, they have a cold drink or chilled watermelon in their hand. The exhaustingly busy day ends with an old-time horse pull and thrilling fireworks. The rodeo grounds fill up with revelors who want an improved view, but locals sit outside their houses for a conveniently spectacular show.
The fireworks aren’t as huge and impressive as the bigger city, but they are wonderful for a small town. I think it’s a rule you must have a blanket and treats to watch fireworks, no matter the temperature. (Stops the mosquito bites!) Your neck begins to hurt from trying to see professional fireworks and all the amateur’s displays, too. My kids pile on the trampoline to watch. We live on a main road so at the conclusion, the cars start zooming by as people are anxious to get home after the hectic day. For a few years now, the kids and teenagers, have stood by the road waving at the procession of cars, and counting the honks they get.
Fun memories. Great traditions! (Exhausting, but fun!) American celebration at it’s finest.