Wednesday, July 05, 2006

How I Spent the 4th of July

“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” John Adams in a letter to Abigail on how to mark Independence Day, July 3, 1776.

There was pomp and parade, there were shows, games, sports and illuminations, and I’m sure there were guns and bells and bonfires somewhere.

July 4th in North Central Florida still has a small town feel to it. Part of that feel in Gainesville is because the town is nearly empty with the University of Florida on summer session, and so many of our residents are off to cooler climes. But for those of us who stay there’s Fanfares and Fireworks, our annual celebration of the 4th on the 3rd, sponsored by our public radio and public tv station, WUFT. It’s become a tradition now to do it on the 3rd, but a lot of folks are unaware that it started out that way because the station couldn’t afford to pay for a big show on the 4th. In addition, the sponsors felt a lot of folks had a tradition of escaping to the beach on the 4th and they’d get a better turnout a day earlier. Regardless of the reason, Gainesville now celebrates the 4th on the 3rd.

By the time we got to the bandshell the sun was sinking into the west and we found our usual spot, sitting with friends-of-friends, the same group we hang out with each year. Since this is an election year the politicians were also out in force, working the crowd and passing out literature. The most appreciated was the paper fans being passed out by one school board candidate and those fans got a workout.

One of the things that struck me about the crowd was how truly American it was for this celebration of our nation’s birthday. There were people of all colors and backgrounds, native born and immigrant, young and old. All stood for the national anthem, and all cheered when the fireworks began to explode late in the evening. The fireworks display was glorious, conducted to a background of patriotic music from our community band, and as we packed up to head home there was that strong sense of community one feels at these occasions, all of us celebrating together with our neighbors.

Today I drove down to Micanopy, ‘bout 12 miles south of Gainesville on US 441 for their 4th of July celebration and annual fish fry. The fish fry is held at the Micanopy museum, Micanopy’s early claim to fame being its designation as Florida’s oldest inland city, founded in 1821. Its latest claim to fame is being the setting for the movie “Doc Hollywood” starring Michael J. Fox.

Up on the left is an example of a Cracker farmhouse at the museum, similar to what Julia and Rand would have lived in in Smuggler’s Bride. ‘Cept theirs wouldn’t have had the fancy front door.

I’m sure they would rather have lived in the Herlong Mansion, an antebellum beauty circa 1845 that’s now a famed bed and breakfast that you see on the right. When the boys were small and things would get out of hand, I’d threaten to check myself into the Herlong Mansion for a long weekend...and not tell anyone where I was.

As the thermometer began to climb past 90F I decided to call it a day and return home, rested from my holiday celebration, and ready to wish our entire country a happy 230th birthday!

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