Last weekend, my family and I braved the scorching heat and enjoyed the traditional city of Menifee 4th of July celebration. You know the one, the big event that is never actually ON the 4th of July, but held the weekend before because apparently it is a lot cheaper.
Some may call it lame, but I think it just adds to the charm of our small town. (Well, it's small by Southern California standards.)
When we moved here eight years ago, it was just days before the big party at Wheatfield Park. We dressed in our red, white, and blue and carried flags. I'm sure we got there early to get a good spot to watch the parade, which I think lasted about 15 minutes. But, we were thrilled with the cute parade entries and the very cheap booths set up in the park. Everything just screamed "small town" and, being from small towns, we felt right at home. That evening, our new neighbors invited us to watch the fireworks from their front yard with them.
Time has passed and I'm happy to say that most of the small town charm hasn't gone away. However, we did notice that the parade has gotten much longer (a plus) and the booths no longer sell cheap food (a minus). But, the fact that you can walk around without feeling suffocated by large crowds and that you always run into several people you know just makes you happy to be there.
My kids were really looking forward to the parade most of all. Early in the day, the younger ones started picking out which bag they were going to bring to collect candy. I, remembering that first parade eight years ago, told them they'd be lucky to get more than a couple pieces and that a bag really wasn't necessary. Well, they proved me wrong! Thanks to mastering the art of cheering loudly for the candy throwers (and learning not to sit at the end of the route, where everyone was out of candy) they came home with a pretty good haul.
As a mom, I think my favorite part of the parade this year was the many parade entries that involved spraying water at people. I don't know if people were scrambling to add that at the last minute after hearing the weather report or if they were just inspired, but it was brilliant. Not only was it fun for the kids, but the adults appreciated a bit of cooling off as well!
When night fell, the fireworks came. We've gone to the fireworks show actually ON the 4th in Temecula, which is amazing. But by the time we've fought the crowds to get a parking spot and then to get home, we always vow we'll never go back. We haven't established a traditional viewing spot when it comes to watching the fireworks in Menifee. I know some people arrive very early and stake out their place in the grass. But, living close gives us more options.
We've watched them from a friend's backyard pool, our upstairs bedroom window, and the front yard. This year, we decided to climb up our backyard hill and watch from there. Thanks to a portable stereo and a CD of patriotic music, I figured we'd have a bit of ambiance too!
As we climbed up the hill, my kids worried about rattlesnakes and insisted that it would be "way better at the park." But, once we settled in and the fireworks started, that was all forgotten. In addition to the classic "oohs" and "aahs" we traditionally share, my kids (and even the neighbors) joined me in singing "The Star Spangled Banner", "My Country 'tis of Thee", and "You're a Grand Old Flag."
Really, it doesn't matter where (or even when) you celebrate our country's independence. What matters is that you take the time to pause and reflect on how lucky we are to live in the USA and a "small town" like Menifee.
Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.