I grew up in New Jersey, in a town that celebrated the fourth of July in a BIG WAY. We woke up to a twenty-one gun salute we could hear from our house, then spent the day in the park, wandering among a local pet show, contests, and circus sideshows, petting llamas and even riding an elephant. The centerpiece was a big circus under a tent, putting on two or three shows that day. In the evening, you had to stake out your firework spot early, and local dance classes entertained while we waited for it to get dark. I loved it! One of my all-time favorite holidays. Second only to Christmas.
Later, when I had a child of my own, we lived in California. I greatly enjoyed the very different experience of a July Fourth parade that I had there, and sent the following email to my family in 2002:
Besides the expected
- high school marching band,
- local teen dance class (on foot dancing to Mary Poppins’ “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”),
- beauty queen (“Miss Teen”) waving from a Porsche Boxster,
- assorted Scouts,
- community organizations (garden club, animal rescue),
- religious organizations,
- local merchants (*I* want to ride on the coffee shop float; thay get to sit at pretty tables sipping lattes!),
- and a few groups who we only caught sight of from the neck up (dressed as cowboys, old time baseball players, and medieval lords and ladies),
there were some unexpected aspects too.
The Asian population was well represented in various ways, including two attractive Chinese dragons (this is as it should be, but it is “unexpected” to me after my years of attending July fourth parades on the east coast). Sikhs danced with scimitars (fake, I assume), followed by a float representing the development of the Sikh community in the U.S. over the past century (with real Sikhs, carrying labels such as “engineer” and “teacher”).
Incongruous marketing efforts took the form of a local “haunted house” providing actors as dead pirates, and of a bevy of pink-clad Mary Kay saleswomen passing out fliers as they marched by. A bus labeled “Masonic Home for Adults” also took part, presumably full of adult Masons, though it is hard to be sure as the windows were tinted and closed.
The theme of this year’s parade, the turn-of-the-century (19th to 20th, not the most recent turn), inspired many of the costumes, as did traditional red, white and blue patriotism. One float had, with the best of intentions, wanted a Statue of Liberty. Presumably they doubted that any person would be able to hold a torch aloft for the entire parade, and so they costumed a mannequin. By this I mean a literal department store mannequin, all skinny and pinch-faced with a high fashion aloof expression. She must have been difficult to pose, for she was kind of hunched over (at least by the time she arrived at our point on the parade route), but her torch arm did, as they had hoped, remain high. The torch itself, however, was of such a shape that it seemed to have been made from an inverted bottle, painted. Lady Liberty inadvertently appeared to be acting out a barroom brawl, and about to smash someone over the head with a beer.
What did you do to celebrate the fourth of July?
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