I grew up in a small village where not much happened. There was one church, a small store attached to the store owner’s home and a post office attached to the post mistresses home. We had very few streets and no street names. It was actually very idyllic for a child. But we never celebrated the 4th of July in my town. It wasn’t until I met the man who would be my future husband that I got to see what the 4th of July was all about in small town America.
My husband grew up in a town in Western New York that is a suburb of Buffalo. And they embrace the fourth of July with gusto. The town has a downtown business district with a department store, supermarket, city hall, a post office and various small businesses. Every year on July 3rd the carnival comes to town. It sets up in the parking lot behind some of the businesses on Main Street. If there is a carnival there has to be food so there are the standard food vendors selling fried dough and sausage and pepper sandwiches. But this is Western New York so you also have to be able to get chicken wings with hot sauce, Beef on ‘Wech and stuffed banana peppers. And to wash down all the food there is beer available at the beer tent. But things don’t really get going until the morning of July 4th.
Fun, Music and Food
If you are of a fitness bent, you can rise early on the morning of the fourth and run in the annual 10K to support the Boys and Girls Club. I’ve run in it a few times and it’s fun. Plus it helps alleviate the guilt of all the food that is still to come. At 10 a.m. the race is over and the town band begins to play. There is always a theme to the concert but no matter the theme, they always end with a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Once the concert ends it is time to wander around downtown, get something to eat and think about the optimal spot to claim to view the parade. If you know someone who lives on the parade route and has a front porch, you can sit in a comfortable chair, in the shade, with a cool drink. That is like winning the parade viewing lottery and I have yet to score such a sweet spot. But luckily my sister-in-law works with someone, who has a friend, who knows a guy, who has an aunt who lives on the parade route. We’re in. We get to pull up a postage stamp sized plot of grass between the sidewalk and the curb. But it fits our lawn chairs and blankets and provides a great view of the parade.
The parade isn’t on a scale with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade but it may be the longest parade in the history of parades. Not only do people in town participate but towns, villages and hamlets within a 15 mile radius also participate. That means every fire truck and rescue vehicle that can be spared is in the parade. And many departments have their own band, so those bands also perform. Then there are the marching bands from the local middle and high schools, plus baton twirlers, majorettes, cheerleaders and children from local dance schools. And of course there are politicians, classic cars, and floats. And every motorized conveyance has people inside tossing candy to the spectators. It’s loud, it’s hot and it’s fun.
After the parade people disperse to pursue other forms of entertainment for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. Most will be having cookouts with family and friends. So now is the time to go home and get the potato salad, baked beans or whatever food item you’ve been asked to bring to the party. It’s a good time to relax, catch-up with our loved ones, see how much the children have grown.
Fireworks Worth the Trip
As the sun begins to set it is time to think about where we want to sit to watch the fireworks. Much like parade viewing, you have to get an optimal spot for the fireworks. Masses of people converge on the downtown area again. Some drive downtown while others have been downtown all evening, listening to a live band. However people get there, the fireworks are worth the trip. The town puts on a wonderful display. Vendors walk back and forth in the crowd, selling glow in the dark everything. But when the clock strikes 10, all eyes are on the sky.
For the next half hour the sky is lit up with every color of the rainbow. Then there is the spectacular finale, applause and then things get much quieter. It’s time to get the children home and in bed. Child-free adults may decide to go back and listen to the band. But for me, the day is over and I’m content because I’ve had the 4th of July of my dreams. It may not be the biggest or the best, but for me, it is just right.
However you celebrate, Happy Fourth of July.