Archive for Thursday, June 25, 2009

More than fireworks

June 25, 2009

For many, the mid-point of summer will arrive with the celebration of the Fourth of July. During the next week, there will be a variety of events and activities to honor the birthday of the United States, not the least of which will be nightly fireworks shows.

Back when I was young, the Fourth of July was a time to start thinking about the return to school. For me, that meant getting in shape for football. In those olden days, sports weren’t a year-round thing. For me, the Fourth meant heading to the track to start running and doing some weightlifting in preparation for football practice, which normally got under way in late August. Certainly there were no organized workouts, but maybe some guys would get together and toss the ball around.

I must admit I have never been a great lover of individual fireworks. I was young during World War II, and fireworks weren’t available. After the war, I remember sweating and straining to mow a lawn with an old unit and taking my $1 and buying fireworks. In less than 30 minutes, I had shot all my fireworks, and it dawned on me how hard I’d worked to earn a buck and then just blow it off. From that point on, I was too frugal to buy firecrackers. When our children were young, we did buy a few sparkers. On the other hand, I do enjoy public firework demonstrations and particularly those that are accompanied by patriotic music.

According to several sources, it was only a year after the Declaration of Independence that the first celebration was held. As you might expect, Philadelphia was host to the first event, which included fireworks, ringing of bells and military salutes. What impressed me about this was the optimism of the celebrants. The war for freedom had just started, and wasn’t really going that well, yet folks had the faith in the future to know they would win and become independent. Yes, I read there were a few complaints from Quakers concerning windows being broken by reverberations from fireworks.

The first official recognition of the holiday was in Massachusetts in 1781. It wasn’t long before the other states were following along, and the Fourth of July became a huge holiday.

While there are celebrations in both Bonner Springs and Basehor, they cannot match the observances of a century ago. The importance of the holiday was enhanced by the national centennial in 1876. After that, almost every community came up with a major event to honor the nation’s birthday.

Looking back at the old issues of the Chieftain, you can grasp the magnitude of the celebration. Public picnics were very important at these events. In addition, there were live performances by groups including the City Band. There was always a special program in the evening, culminated by fireworks. Each year, one of the major highlights was the patriotic oration.

Bonner Springs will continue the tradition with the Bonner Blast on Saturday, June 27. The event features a city band concert at 8:30 p.m., an ice cream social and fireworks at about 9:30 p.m. City Band fans will get a second patriotic program when the band holds its regular concert on Thursday, July 2. Just a note: There is no concert on June 25.

Basehor has had a Fourth of July celebration for many years. The event is sponsored by the Basehor P.R.I.D.E. The event includes a parade, entertainment at the high school and fireworks, which are shot off by the Basehor Lions Club.

Please have a safe holiday and use common sense, no matter what your plans include. And, yes, take a few moments to reflect on what the holiday really means.

It is a celebration of our precious freedom, which has been purchased by decades of sacrifice.

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