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American Life: July/The Fourth of July

Fourth of July fun Activities

July is the first full month of summer. It marks the birth and independence of America. America's birthday was yesterday, the 4th of July. The holiday is celebrated throughout America with lots of parades, barbecues, games, activities, and fireworks. The Northeast gets quite hot and humid in July even though you might not think so. It is early enough in summer that the temperature still drops a little during the night, though. It is comparable to the weather in Kansai.


The Fourth of July was always an exciting holiday as a child. I would like to share a few of those childhood memories with you today. As I got older I had part-time jobs and a busy schedule of my own so I didn't have time to participate much in 4th of July activities, unfortunately. 


I grew up on the outskirts of Philadelphia in a town called Downingtown Pennsylvania. It is a small town but has a big school district as It includes many townships from around the area. So it is quite a well-known little town.  It is also a hub town that traditionally had large paper mills and access to the train and a large river. Downingtown has a population of about 8,000 people but many came from all over to enjoy the 4th of July parade, barbecues, canoeing and games that were played in the center of town on that day.


I remember standing in front of my grandparents house, which was a very old house along the main street of Downingtown. We would put our chairs in the driveway and watch the parade go by. We would see the fire company, the police department, the local school band and other members of the community as they marched past with loud exciting music. For lunch we would have barbecue, usually grilled hot dogs, chicken,  hamburgers with coleslaw and potato salad, lemonade or iced tea. These are typical foods of Fourth of July. I can still smell the smell of barbecue coming from everyone's houses in the neighborhood. Later in the day we would go to the town center and watch the activities. I remember some of the activities were very strange but they did them every year. I will talk about some of them in the next paragraph.


The whole town was in full 4th of July mode. There were many activities you could see every year on this day but I’ll just briefly talk about five. The town had hospital bed races, flagpole climbing, greased watermelon relay, and canoe races to name a few. The hospital bed race was a race where one person pushed the hospital bed and one person lied in it. Participants would race to push the bed across the finish line first. It is just like sprinting but while also pushing a hospital bed with someone in it. It was very exciting because the town blocked off all the streets so no cars could go through. Another activity was climbing the flagpole. This was a race to see who could climb the flagpole the fastest to get the flag. Another popular event was throwing a greased slippery watermelon. You can see some examples of this on YouTube, if you’d like. A watermelon is oiled so it is very slippery, and teams have to throw and catch the watermelon to get it past the finish line first without dropping it or breaking it. It is similar to a bucket relay except with a big slippery heavy watermelon. American watermelons are very big and heavy. It was fun to watch because there are always teams that drop the watermelon and the watermelon explodes everywhere. Finally there was a big canoe race. There is a river that goes through town so many people like to race canoes on this day. My uncle and cousins did this most years. 


The activities were very fun and memorable as I mentioned earlier. The smells, sounds and excitement are still very fresh in my mind even though this was quite a long time ago. I'm not sure how 4th of July is celebrated in Downingtown now, but at night we would go watch the fireworks. As a little child I was very excited and impressed with the bright colors and loud sounds. The air would be a little cool so we would all put on a sweatshirt or light jacket while watching the fireworks.


 I’ve described a typical Fourth of July for someone growing up in a small town in America. I did all of these things every year as a child and remember them fondly. I am sure that this and similar events are happening even now in many small towns across America.


I admit that this series makes me a little homesick. 

Thank you for reading this edition American Life.

 

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