ESCANABA - Parades and potato salad, fragrant mock orange blossoms and metallic fireworks smoke, red, white and blue, and sunburned noses-
Just by mentioning these things, our minds skip back over archives of 4th of July's (Independence Day) memories.
What do you remember most about your childhood 4th of July's?
Do you remember the greased pig contest in Ludington Park, or the baby contest?
Can you still feel the hot sparkler wire and taste the juicy watermelon?
The 4th of July was always a BIG to-do at our house. It is our country's birthday. My mom always did up birthday celebrations in a grand way and our nation's was no exception.
From the time I was 5 years old until I was 45, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends gathered in my parents' yard to celebrate the 4th of July. As many as 60 to 70 people gathered to toss water balloons, have sack races, play volleyball, have a watermelon seed spitting contest and EAT!
Every year the food got bigger and better. From barbequed chickens to beef and pork on the rotisserie, melon boat and grape salad, red, white and blue jello (with fresh strawberries, blueberries and cream) to taco salad and homemade Kit Kat bars.
It was a feast fit for a king or should I say a president.
Early on the fourth day of July my dad would put up the flag in the little bracket on the front porch. Mom was busy boiling eggs and potatoes for salad. My brother and cousins took trucks and trailers to round up a half a dozen picnic tables for our back yard.
My sister and I began to fill 50 or so water balloons for our game and gather hula hoops, balls and props for contests.
While we worked, Mom often told the story of her father, the Russian immigrant, and how proud he was when he got his citizenship papers. She spoke of uncles, one in the Korean War and one serving during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Some years on the Fourth of July we went swimming at the Bay Shore. Some years we had pie-eating contests and party themes. But the most important thing that we did every year was that we gathered dozens of cousins, family and friends together.
Besides celebrating the freedom of the USA, we celebrated the peak of summer in the U.P. The weather was hot, the day was long, and the corn was growing (and hopefully knee high by the Fourth of July). Grandpa always said he took his long-johns off for the Fourth of July and put them back on the day after Labor Day.
The short sweet days of summer in Upper Michigan are worth celebrating. Get as many family members together as you can to enjoy Independence Day.
Be careful; be safe this land was made for you and me!
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of north Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.