July Fourth

The town sirens wail at dawn, accompanied by cannons and gun fire. Down at the city park, there’s a breakfast and a 5K fun run. Empty chairs line the town’s two main roads, having been set to “save a space” for the town parade in the days prior. (Those with family or friends along the route get “choice” spots, while hundreds of out-of-town visitors fill in gaps on sidewalks, storefronts, and front yards.) Mid-morning, around 10, the sheriff’s office cordons off the streets in anticipation.

Local children gather near the park and ready themselves to ride their bikes into town, flags flying. They proceed north on State Street, then turn left at the stoplight and west onto Main Street. The floats follow, showcasing local businesses and pageant winners, pioneer re-enactors and performers with a song or a dance to share, and vehicles and livestock adorned with flags and the stars and stripes. Parade participants toss goodies to onlookers: candies, popsicles, balls, frisbees, balloons. They push t-shirts through giant tubes and shoot them – with an airy poof! – into the waiting hands of the swollen crowds. DJs elicit a roaming call-and-response. Families clamor for firemen to spray water their way. Children – small, large, and sometimes well into adulthood – charge into the streets to catch their own personal stash of treats, a steady surge and recession. All around, people drink sodas and laugh, the parade as much of a spectacle as those who have gathered to enjoy it. At noon, police and emergency vehicles cruise through town, lights flashing, signaling the end of the festivities.

At night, people gather with friends to watch fireworks explode in the dark sky. The lights dazzle. Smoke floats on the wind. Our awakened sense of wonder helps us remember that we are free to gather as we please and express ourselves openly, and we give thanks.

© Julia Moris-Hartley, 2017

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