a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done
My best childhood holiday memories surround the 4th of July in Brentwood, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where I lived from about age 7 until 14.
Festivities began early with families gathering their lawn chairs and coolers and laying claim to "their" favorite spots along the route. No one in my family would ever miss the parade, even my father, who traditionally missed just about every family event.
To say that this parade was and still is epic is quite the understatement. Even today, over 40,000 people show up to enjoy it. That is a lot of people converging on a town with a population of under 10,000.
Children started decorating their bikes weeks in advance, and spent the time before the parade reached their areas riding up and down the route. And some chose to be in the parade, riding the whole thing. Of course, there were street vendors and clowns and a gazillion marching bands and fire trucks--lots of fire trucks. Oh, the magic of it all.
the next generation of cousins at the Brentwood parade in 1990
back row: Kelly, Ryan, Michael, Brandon
front row: Matthew, Rachael, Justin, Greg
After the parade, my parents made their way back home to get the picnic going, but we kids headed to the park for the races. It seems strange to me now that our parents did not join us at the park festivities, but at the time it was our normal.
The park was within walking distance of our house, so we went there frequently to play ball, swim, or just hang out. My parents would purchase pool tags for us each summer (metal tags with numbers on them that had to be sewn to our bathing suits to allow us entrance to the pool). Because of its proximity, the park just seemed to be an extension of our neighborhood.
Anyway, there were all kinds of races held at the pool and in the stadium on the 4th of July, but the one that I remember so vividly was the slow bicycle race. The winner, of course, was the last one over the finish line. So many kids fell off their bikes while inching across the field. The suspense was palpable.
The races were not the only reason to make our way to the park after the parade. Every child in the town was give tickets that could be redeemed for items at the pool snack bar like Jaw Breakers, Boston Baked Beans, snow cones, and frozen Zero bars. We would not have missed out on that for anything!
Back at home there were hotdogs and black potatoes (potatoes cooked right on the coals) and sparklers. We always had sparklers.
The night concluded with the fireworks in the stadium; and once again, everyone in the family went. Oh, how I love fireworks--the louder, the better! My dad parked in his special spot, away from the crowds, which allowed us to zip home as soon as the grand finale was over.
The 4th of July was about as close to perfect as a day could get.
Who knew how that would change to the complete opposite so many years later?
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