When I was a little girl the 4th of July was a big day. We children looked forward to it for weeks. School was out. Haying had started. The garden was in and growing. It was time for a break from the everyday hum of hard farm living.
Our own town did not have a big celebration because two towns away there was a really wonderful annual event which drew people from miles around. There were three parts to the Fourth of July celebration, at least when I was young.
There was the parade.
What a joy that was for us to watch pass by. The parade marshal would sometimes lead the parade on a beautiful horse. Other times there would be a fancy open car or an antique car someone had donated for that day. Always there were decorated floats from many organizations. As children we preferred the floats where the people on them tossed candy in tightly wrapped cellophane into the crowd. We almost always were able to acquire at least one piece of candy.
There was also always a high school marching band and sometimes other musicians as well. Hats always came off and hands were placed over hearts as the national emblem of our country went by in front of the band. As a high schooler myself, I loved the marching band as I was in the percussion section. There is nothing like a rousing street beat as the band prepares to play "The Stars and Stripes Forever". Who can watch our flag go by and listen to that wonderful music without a tear or two dropping? Certainly not I...
Perhaps a clown or two would saunter by in and out of the crowds lining the street. Local notables rode either on floats or bright new (or very old!) cars from local auto dealerships. Once we had the state Dairy Queen on one of the floats. A little girl looked up to that lovely young woman, admiring her shining hair and gorgeous pale yellow satin dress and armful of luscious dewy gladiolus stems.
Two: there was the chicken barbecue.
The Lions Club, or perhaps the volunteer firemen, created a delicious chicken barbecue on huge homemade barbecue grills that could grill 50 or more chicken quarters at a time. They often served beanhole beans and potato salad with the chicken. A lettuce salad would not hold up to service on a plate of barbecued chicken so the more sturdy side dishes were the order of the day. This barbecue was one of the best fund-raisers of the season for its sponsor as it is hard to resist the meal on a beautiful summer's day when spirits are high from celebrating the glorious freedoms we enjoy in our country.
Three: the fireworks!
The firemen were usually those who set up and manned the fireworks display each year. A large open field where there was plenty of room for cars to park and yet remain safe from falling debris from the rockets was just the place. Different years different fields were chosen. That was always quite an affair. Of course, as little children, the noise was very difficult to bear but the bags of popcorn we brought from home and bottles of homemade root beer added to the magnificence of the colors in the sky making it a must-do event every year.