Fourth of July was - and still is - the biggest day of the year in my small hometown of Sebastian, Florida. Businesses shut down all over town, no matter what day of the week the 4th falls. Everyone wakes up early and heads to the road that runs along the river for the parade. Parking is an issue, so most people park at Walmart and walk down.
The parade is long - usually well over an hour. Any business, local politician, church or civic group is allowed to participate. It is already sweltering hot at 8 AM when the parade begins. There are numerous marching bands, elaborate floats, Girl Scouts on bicycles and random people walking or driving while waving and throwing candy. You know the parade is nearing the end when you spot the horses. They are always last because no one wants to walk behind them.
After the parade, everyone heads to the park where there are festivities all day. My friends and I would spend the whole day in the park when we were in middle school. We'd eat, listen to live music, play volley ball and sit under shady trees. Once we were old enough to drive, we usually took a break to head to the beach for a while, but always returned to the park.
There are activities going on all day long in the park, such as pie eating contests and karate demonstrations. Vendors sell freshly squeezed lemonade, shaved ice, pizza, hot dogs and fried seafood platters. You run into people you haven't seen since the last 4th of July.
Once darkness sets in, the fireworks begin! Even though it's a small town, the fireworks show is always spectacular. Families spread out blankets and stare up at the sky. Children watch in awe with sparklers in hand.
I look back so fondly on my childhood memories of the 4th of July that I try to return with my daughter each year. We dress in matching red, white and blue outfits. We take in the parade and walk around the park. Then we find some air conditioned comfort and return later for the fireworks.