Friday, July 9, 2010

Even after the rocket's red glare

The Fourth of July is a big day in my hometown of Galva. Our hard-working Freedom Fest committee puts together an amazing lineup of fun, food and fireworks that starts early and ends late. One of the earliest mornings, latest nights and busiest days takes place right on my front porch, which is Holiday Ground Zero for many friends and family members, as we pack the big, wraparound structure with enough food to feed the continental army in a tradition that has lasted many years, with shade and a bit of breeze on the hot, sunny days and shelter for the rainy ones. Our across-the-street proximity to busy Wiley Park makes our locale a prime spot to watch the parade, visit fellow revelers and, otherwise, take a relaxing break from the all-day whirlwind that is Galva’s Fourth.
Or at least that’s what they tell me.
I am, you see, a busy guy myself on the Fourth, both because of my responsibilities as a Star Courier camera-slinger, and because of a lengthy list of Indendence-Day duties I’ve managed to pile up over the years. So, despite the fact that I am one of the hosts of our annual fete, I am often missing in action.
This year’s buzz-around started with photos of the annual kids fun run and 5K road race (which starts and ends across the street), plus a quick park-wide search for photo ops at events ranging from the penny scramble and art jam, to the world-famous cow bingo contest and the beginnings of the antique tractor show. Though it was my morning to play Mass music at St. John’s Church, Father John Burns traded me to the Galva Ministerial Association for six hymnals and a lector to be named later so that I could provide the music for the community church service in the park. This required my first clothing swap in a day that would see me make more quick costume changes than a Las Vegas diva.
She: Wear that new shirt I got you for church, then change into your other outfit for the parade.
Now, I wear clothes. And sometimes they even match and/or go together. But I don’t wear anything that could or should ever be described as an outfit. But I knew what she meant and followed instructions, as she was now busy meeting and greeting the first serious wave of porch party guests.
The rest of the day included stints hauling sound equipment and serving as emcee for both the Freedom Fest parade and talent show.
I remember listening to other announcers over the years; guys like the late, great Chuck Hay, who sounded cool, collected and fun-loving as they told me everything I ever wanted to know. I don’t know about them, but I’m generally faking it, battling as I am against notes-threatening breezes, last-minute line-up changes and an inexplicable inability to sort out the mass of politicians, beauty queens, dance groups, singers and vintage tractors I encounter between the two events.
Eventually, I was free to return to the porch-front for awhile before making the trek to the Galva Park District for our city’s amazing fireworks show. I’m often a little pooped by the time dusk rolls around, but the sheer energy of that astonishing display always reenergizes me, making me glad to be there, in Galva, Illinois, USA.
My hometown.
Another high point of the holiday weekend was the 100th birthday of my dad’s cousin Helen. She’s the last of five first cousins, including dad, who were the grandchildren of a Bishop Hill Colony girl and a Swedish immigrant railroad worker. Many Christmases and other important events were spent in the company of those cousins and their families. Now, Helen is the only member of that generation left, a distinction she carries with grace, good humor and continued independence.
The camping box is out of the basement and back in the vehicle where it belongs as we plan our first tent outing of the summer. Door County is the destination, with a couple of days scheduled in breathtaking Peninsula State Park, and several ideas percolating for how we’re going to get there and back. I’ll send you a postcard of sorts.

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