July 3 – 9, 2020Vol. 22, No. 4

DIY 4th of July

Flags representing three different eras of U.S. history, with 48 stars, 15 stars, and 13 stars. Photo by Cordell Perne.

by Esther J. Perne

Remember when the 4th of July meant family time, staying close to home, being free for a day from a set routine?

Remember when the 4th of July meant a simple picnic with peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches and chips or a simple cook-out with hot dogs and potato salad and everyone drank Kool-Aid — or so we thought — and adults sat around and children never stood still?

Remember when the 4th of July was celebrated with the most special of desserts, with strawberry shortcake topped with little paper flags, or a cake with white frosting and so many red and blue candles that everyone could blow some out, or a watermelon with seeds that you could spit right onto some unsuspecting target's neck?

Remember when the 4th of July was solid sunshine and the whole day could be spent near water and the evening was without demands to be anywhere and then it was 8:30ish and someone would notice that the sun was setting and everyone watched while it danced and bobbed atop a distant ridge, sank and rose again for one last wink then disappeared leaving behind a path of light on the water and a glow in the sky.

Remember when it rained on the 4th of July and families still picnicked — and laughed — beside fireplaces or on balconies and under pavilions — or even in boats with canvas tops before moving inside for more food or games around a family table.

Remember when the most exciting fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July were sparklers, one per child, held carefully at arm's length until the sparkle dimmed but not the shine in the children's eyes.

None of these rituals was too long ago. The legendary and much loved daylong gala of food, festivities and parades by land and by water — not to mention spectacular nighttime fireworks — in the Belgrades only dates to 1999. It was great entertainment but think of the many 4ths since 1776 when celebrations were improvised and often very simple, very do-it-yourself.

Remember when 2020 came along and all the 4th of July events throughout the region (the state, the country) had to be canceled, except: yard sales starting popping up; a huge outdoor book sale was scheduled at the Belgrade Public Library; take-out or sit-outside dining was becoming the norm; the incredible network of trails got their credit and their use; and the waterways, the wonderful waterways, provided the best reason of all for family time, staying close to home, being free for a day from a set routine.

Overall the 4th of July 2020 would be a great day to venture out in the local area for recreation, a good book and a look at what folks were turning out of their homes for other folks to buy.

The 4th of July 2020 would also be a great day to return to the simple family picnic or cookout, the desserts, the sunset, the sparklers, even the cool aid.