Sunday, July 3, 2016

REMINISCING: An Independence Day Tradition

It’s Independence Day weekend, and it’s my favorite time of the year. George has Christmas, but I love summer and especially July 4th weekend. Ever since I was a kid, it’s been the day I’ve looked forward to all year. It’s not just the parades or the fireworks. It’s the weather, the family, and friends. Sure, we have family around for Christmas, but in July, it seems like we have a little more room to in which to move.

The tradition of the parade and fireworks for my family began a long time ago in a tiny little village in Orleans County. Lyndonville has one of the best planned holidays in the area. With a population of about 2,500 for both the Town of Yates and the village combined, they easily draw many more than that for the Independence Day celebration. Since 1973, they’ve made it destination.

I was five when we moved to Lockport, but all my cousins on my Dad’s side still lived down there. So did both my grandmothers. For us, the Fourth was a time to get together with our families for the day. We’d watch the parade in the afternoon, eat, and then head out to watch the fireworks. We went just about every year. In fact, I can remember one year we stayed in Lockport. I missed going to Lyndonville a couple of times because of work commitments, but really have made it quite a tradition even into my adulthood.

When I was a kid going to Lyndonville, we would make Meme’s house the center of operations. My cousins, Charlie and David, and Mike and Jason (later Jacob, too) would all be there, too. With my sister and brother, we all had a great time while our parents enjoyed the day off.

As darkness began to fall, we’d head downtown to find a good vantage point for the fireworks. When we were little kids, we often went behind the library and set up by the pond. The fireworks would go off over the water, and we would oooh and ahhh over the explosions. We used that spot for many years.

Growing up, we started to each have a little more independence and could pick out our own places to check out the fireworks. With the construction of the new playground behind the school, that area became the preferred spot. There were lots of people who had the same idea. It was always pretty crowded there. I can remember one year that the weather changed abruptly and the debris from the rockets fell around us. I was hit by a rather large piece, although it wasn’t on fire and it didn’t hurt. It wasn’t anything like that debacle in Lockport when they all exploded on the ground.

Wendy and I started dating and I took her to Lyndonville for the July 4th celebrations. It became something that we did each year. My grandmother’s house became our base of operations. We’d park there and walk all over town for the parade, the craft show, and the fireworks. After we had kids, we still went to Lyndonville. It was a family tradition.

My grandmother went into a nursing home, but we broke her out of the asylum to take her back to the house for an Independence Day picnic. I think she really enjoyed the afternoon, even if she did get pretty tired fairly quickly. The next year, she was just too tired to make it out, but we still used the old house for our hangout.

At the same time, we moved from behind the school to the opposite side of the pond. We had been told about that place a few years before. It used to be private property, but had been gifted to the village. We utilized it, I think maybe to the chagrin of the people who used to own it. They were not used to people invading their private refuge, and seeing us there with all our kids may have startled them. Eventually, though, they got used to us.

Once the house was sold, it was much more difficult to visit Lyndonville for the whole day. We would still go down for the parade and craft show, but staying for the fireworks was out. With four young kids, we needed to have an available bathroom. So, 2013 was the last year we spent the full day in Lyndonville. Pretty much since 1974, through a couple generations, we made July Fourth in Lyndonville a tradition.

This year will mark the third year of our new family tradition. We still go to Lyndonville for the parade and to check out the craft show at the school. By mid-afternoon, we make a quick stop at my cousin Jason’s house before heading out to Royalton to hang out at Wendy’s sister’s house. We have a cookout and watch the fireworks from her back porch. Of course, this year our newest tradition is usurped again by the decision to move the Royalton fireworks to Hartland.

Still, we will persevere. We will go to Tammy’s for a cookout after going to the parade in Lyndonville. Traditions are important. It gives us a time to spend with family and friends. It also gives the girls something to look forward to, just like I did as a kid. Independence Day is a special day in our family. Hopefully it will be just as important for years to come.

Craig Bacon wishes he could get all the family back together for one more July 4th bash like the old days -- all the cousins, aunts, uncles, and siblings.