Kids are everywhere on the Fourth of July 2013 in the Village of Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. Babies hang in pouches on their parents’ chests, strollers and wagons dot the crowd, the majority walk on their own or run. Some multiplier swells the regular population of approximately 200 as friends, family, vacationers, and visitors gather for an old-fashion national celebration.
The day is made for kids. There are booths with face painting, glitter tattoos, hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, flags. The harbor is beautiful and adults are willing to linger on a park bench to watch the activities on Lake Michigan as kids play tag, turn cartwheels, pick on each other. Multiple generation families give kids the opportunity to escape stricter parental expectations for the more gentle indulgence of grandparents.
Some kids wear patriotic clothing. A few have their hair dyed red, white and blue. They might not understand how very fortunate they are to live in this country. Not all of them are from financially stable families, but most have an adult who can spend a buck on a hot dog. Not all of them are from families where English is the primary language, but they have come to share the U.S. birthday party. When candy is thrown from simple floats, every kid is an equal with a plastic bag and grabbing hands. They all squeal, they all jostle for a small Tootsie Roll or Jolly Rancher. They sing with the floats that have music playing, duck when teenagers squirt water from a flatbed. In this small town they can be less encumbered by adults’ concern about security. For the city kid visitors Egg Harbor’s Fourth of July bash and parade may be as unsupervised a day as they’ll ever experience.
Sons and daughters who ran after Tootsie Rolls and Jolly Rangers fifteen or twenty years ago and now serve in the armed services deserve recognition for keeping the United States intact so this day can be celebrated so freely. America’s kids who have returned to danger, frequently carrying physical or emotional damage from prior deployments, are in our hearts on the Fourth of July. To the gentle giant who left the fireworks because it reminded him of the war, and all his peers, may 2014 bring more peaceful times.