Adapted from article published in the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph (07.11.2012); page 3
The 4th of July may bring a number of things to mind, depending on your frame of reference. As a Canadian, it is simply three days after Canada Day, and in Quebec, it is ten days after la fête nationale and just one day after la fête de la Ville de Québec. In Great Britain, if noted at all, it symbolizes one of many colonies breaking away from an epic empire. To indigenous people on this continent, it may signify a key step in the beginning of the end of their traditional ways of life.
July 4th is also known as Independence Day, the United States of America’s national holiday. Officially, the country was born July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution declaring the thirteen American colonies independent of Great Britain. The explanatory document known as the Declaration of Independence was signed two days later, and we have celebrated this date ever since.
The festivities usually span several days. High school classes plan their reunions to coincide, couples plan weddings and receptions, and families also organize get-togethers at this time of year. An Art-in-the-Park artisan show, fun runs, fundraisers for community projects, public concerts, and a community street dance lead up to July 4th.
The day of, there is always a parade featuring local businesses, classic cars and farming equipment, children, local musicians, and community groups. For several years, my mother has arranged for the grand finale - a fly-over by Montana Air National Guard F-16 fighter jets which roar over the length of Main Street in a salute. A pitchfork steak fondue in the community park and family picnics are followed by a popular rodeo.
Everywhere I went, there were children – packs of kids carrying on the tradition of growing up together in a small Montana town.
Of course, there are limitations to growing up in a seriously small rural community, but coming home for this holiday always reminds me of the upside – close-knit families, a tangible sense of community investment, knowing your neighbors, and being in touch with the realities of life cycles and hard work. That is the lifestyle distilled into our small town 4th of July.