07.4.14 // Reflections on a Holiday

Image courtesy of nirots / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nirots / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Written by GeekGirlCon Copy Writer Sarah “SG-1″ Grant

In my hometown of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there was a July 4 parade every year. When I was really young, there was a competition for the best decorated vehicle (cars not included). This meant bicycles, tricycles, little red wagons, and homemade carts pulled by dogs. Or other family members. I always decorated my sparkly blue bike with the banana seat with tissue paper, streamers, and pinwheels–all in red in red and white, since my bike was already blue.

When I got to junior high, we began going to downtown Milwaukee to watch the Great Circus Parade, started by The Ringling Brothers and based in Baraboo, Wisconsin. My brother was a freshman in high school when I was in 7th grade, and he played in the South Milwaukee High School Marching Band, which marched in the 5 miles long parade every year. So we would get up very early and head downtown with our lawn chairs, cooler full of food and drink, and the umbrellas–just in case it rained, which it sometimes did (especially if we forgot the umbrellas). We would watch all the marching bands, the acrobats, the caged animals in horse-drawn carts, the elephants, and the 40-horse hitch that was the Budweiser wagon–just like the ones in the Super Bowl commercials. The end of the parade was always announced by the fire engines, and then followed up by the street cleaners–there were a lot of animals relieving themselves during that parade!

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Great Circus Parade bandwagon

 Image credit: Wikipedia

I marched in the Circus Parade when I got to the high school as well, first playing piccolo, and then the bass drum. My brother had played the bass drum, and when he graduated, our band director discovered that my brother was the only drummer who could walk and keep a beat. She assigned me to the bass drum immediately, and I was one of the only bass drummers in our band to make it through the entire parade without passing out.

There were always fireworks in Grant Park, right on Lake Michigan. The majority of people in South Milwaukee (population 21,069) gathered in the biggest meadow with their blankets, children, sparklers, and–most importantly–multiple cans of mosquito spray. Even the crowds of people doused in mosquito spray couldn’t protect those of us who didn’t have our spray, but thankfully there was always someone generous enough to share. My parents never let us have sparklers–much too dangerous for us kids–but lying back on our blankets to watch the fireworks was one of the highlights of the year. The only thing better was Santa Claus!

My next favorite memory of July 4 is after I graduated college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and spent two years in Madison as a working stiff. There’s a show there every year called Rhythm and Booms that is set to music played simultaneously on the radio. It was a much larger show than South Milwaukee’s, and the best place to watch it was the north side of Madison–along with everyone else in the city, of course. A good friend of mine bought a house a block from the park, and we sat out on his lawn to watch the fireworks with our beer, grilled brats, lots of good friends, and the ever-present mosquito spray. Those nights I rarely got home before 1 a.m. because traffic out of the area was so bad, even though it was usually only a 15 minute drive.

I have lived in Seattle for almost 9 years now, and I haven’t been to the Lake Union fireworks even once–far too many people for me! For the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve driven to Kirkland, where my friends have a condo right on Lake Washington. The barge where Kirkland’s fireworks are set off is always set straight out from the back porch, so we gather around 8 p.m. for drinks and dessert, and we wait for the fireworks. They’re not as spectacular as the Lake Union fireworks, some of which we can see from where we are, but it’s like having our own private fireworks show. It lasts just long enough that I start feeling edgy from all the explosions, and then it’s done–and you hear the applause and cheering from all around.

Kirkland

Image credit: Aaron McCaughey

July 4 is Independence Day, and every year of my life, it has meant parties, marching bands, friends, family, food, and fireworks. This year is going to be special for me, because my roommate and best friend for more years than I’m willing to say will be there with me, and so will my mom–whose birthday was July 3, so happy birthday, Mom! The day started as a celebration of our independence from Great Britain, but for me, it’s about coming together with my friends and family without the pressure of presents or anything other than not burning myself with the sparklers–which my mom finally allowed me to light a few years ago.

Whatever you do for your July 4, whether it’s celebration with friends and family or spending the day in solitude, I hope your holiday is as bright and pretty as a the fireworks will be tonight.

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