By Kevin Gibbons
The Fourth of July is one of the least commercial holidays in America. You don’t need fancy clothes, food or gifts to celebrate. All you have to do is find a parade, a night-time fireworks show and some simple All-American barbeque. I’ve always enjoyed the Fourth, because, no matter where I am, in a big city or a small town, I can find a neighborhood celebration that makes me feel like part of an extended family. You can make your Independence Day celebrations as fancy or simple as you want. Here are some of our favorite ways to spend a glorious summer day.
Find a Small-Town Parade and Party
Watching the spectacle of a New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco parade can be impressive, but if you have not attended a small town parade in a few years, give it a try. There is something very “American” about seeing the local school bands, celebrities and political figures marching or riding down the street and hearing spectators calling out to the participants. Everybody is much more interested in having a good time than perfectly executing that turn at the corner of Broadway and demonstrating the winning choreography in front of the television cameras. Many towns follow up their parade with a party in the main park or downtown block.
Look in your local newspaper, or on your community’s Chamber of Commerce or event website for a small town parade near you.
Attend an “Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration”
One of my most memorable 4ths was at the Ardenwood Historical Farm in Fremont, California. This county-run working 19th century farm is a trip back in time. For the Fourth, they had old-time bands, games, docents in period costumes, homemade ice cream, a petting zoo and lots of enthusiastic patrons. We packed a picnic lunch to save a little money and enjoyed the ambiance for $8 per person.
These events can be a little trickier to find. In addition to checking your local newspapers and community sites, go directly to the websites of any historical parks or buildings to see if they have such events scheduled.
Throw Your Own Celebration
Decorations are cheap – just red, white and blue bunting, flowers, material or balloons. Make it a potluck with everybody bringing their favorite summer food – salad or barbeque. Instead of holding it at your house, where people may gravitate in the kitchen or den, think about doing it at a local park. Clean-up will be easier and everyone will be much more in the spirit of the holiday surrounded by other celebrants.
Wrap up the evening by watching a local fireworks show. Grab a blanket and a thermos of hot chocolate and “ooh and aah” with all your neighbors. Many municipalities put on shows free of charge. If your town does not, look for a nearby amusement park or baseball stadium. The beauty of fireworks is that you can watch from outside the venue and see the same show as the paying customers.
You can find listings for municipal events in the local paper or community websites. Go directly to the athletic teams’ sites and look up the details on the games being played the weekend of the Fourth. They will indicate if there are fireworks scheduled and what time (usually immediately after the game). Likewise, a visit to the amusement parks’ websites will tell you their event schedules.
However you decide to celebrate, remember that planning ahead will give you enough time to enjoy the preparations for the holiday, as well as save you money. Don’t wait until the last minute which will not only be more stressful but will also likely cost you more money by having to buy everything at once. So start planning and shopping early and have a happy Fourth!