How West Sacramentans celebrated the Fourth of July

By Michele Townsend

To 8-year-old (“About to turn 9!”), Ella Godina, the Fourth of July is about “Staying up all night, with lots of fun and fireworks!” To 15-year-old Laura Garcia, “Independence Day is a day to spend with family, having fun. And it’s a day that the whole neighborhood watches fireworks together… when everyone is outside having fun.” The fact is, these girls are absolutely right! We all know that 241 years ago, on July 4, 1776, the Thirteen Colonies claimed their independence from England by signing the Declaration of Independence which led to the formation of the United States. But, did you know that at that same time, the way in which we celebrate Independence Day was also declared!? John Adams envisioned how the celebration should take place. He stated about July 4th celebrations “It will be celebrated… With pomp (ceremony and splendid display) and parade…bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of the continent to the other.” This was declared before the Declaration was even signed!

The first Independence Day was actually held on July 8, 1776 at the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Independence Square, Philadelphia. There was music being played by bands, and the ringing of bells. This is where the term “let freedom ring” came from. One year later, on July Fourth (and forever to be on July Fourth) 1777, Independence Day was celebrated by “Adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks” This day was forever to be known as the day of celebrating freedom. The freedom of being our own country, and the freedoms that brought us.

We the People, now a Nation, were free to speak how we saw fit. We were free to worship whatever religion we chose. And because we had the freedom to speak, religion has always been controversial. Everyone has their own view of right and wrong. Not only in religion, but in everything! We have terms like “In God We Trust” on our money, and “One Nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. But because of the freedoms that we are celebrating, it doesn’t say… or restrict… us to which God. It could be my God, it could be yours. But, in this country, we are free to choose. Perhaps the Forefathers had the insight when they wrote about the Freedom of Religion, that the U.S. would welcome the blessing and guidance of all Gods. Regardless, we became an independent country that is based on the importance of freedom, That freedom still stands true today. Pat Bobo, age 32, said, “It’s about Patriotism, but I’m not really proud of our government right now, so I pretty much just party and shoot off fireworks. It’s not much deeper than that.” Again, love or hate what people say, but the freedom of speech is a wonderful thing!

To some people however, the Fourth of July celebration means much more! It may still include fireworks, patriotic music, red white and blue clothes, barbecue, beer and apple pie… but it is a day for many to pay special tribute and send extra prayers to the men and women of the military. A thank you for our for those who guard and protect those very freedoms against anyone or anything that threatens them… a day to sit back and realize how good we’ve got it, and why that is. Stacy Evans, who is “rockin 46” said very enthusiastically “It’s about Independence, Freedom and red, white and blue all the way!” Yet Donna Reber, age 71, says that to her “4th of July means that a bunch of people are going out to spend a bunch of money on getting drunk and fireworks and make her dogs go crazy while she sits there trying to calm them down.”

Let’s all just be happy that in this country, because of those people, on that day, in 1776…. We were able to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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