As America celebrates its independence, families create their own traditions, many of which involve food. The Look East team share their memories and traditions of BBQs, camping trips and family outings.
Growing up, Fourth of July was always fun but had the potential to be different every year. Some years, our family was still involved in wheat harvest over the Fourth, so we might still be in the fields cutting wheat. However, many of the best meals I have ever eaten were in the shade of the combine as we took a dinner break. Other years, harvest was over, but because the county fair was just around the corner my brother, Jeff, and I were busy getting our calves, horses and lambs ready to show.
Annually, our small, rural community would gather at Lake Atwood for a Fourth of July celebration and our family attended as long as we were “feeling good” about harvest or the fair. After my parents retired and we were no longer showing or “in the field,” our family always gathered over the Fourth of July to celebrate my parent’s wedding anniversary – July 3. No matter if we were in the field, in the barns, in town or simply at the farm, we always enjoyed great family, great friends, great food and, of course, great wine.
Growing up in Colorado, my family would always go camping for the Fourth of July. When I was little, this meant hitching up the RV and traveling up to Steamboat with three other families. We would ride our bikes around the campsite, go fishing and swim in the lake, take long hikes, and enjoy the Steamboat Fourth of July parade. Since going off to college, I have missed getting to join my family and friends on their annual camping trips.
The Fourth of July was always a big deal in our family. Not only is it my dad’s birthday, it was always a time we would go to the family property in Holt, Mo., and have a full day of eating and shooting fireworks with my cousins. Even though I lived in Kansas just across the river, Holt always felt like a family vacation. I am the oldest of five, and when the parents bought fireworks we always had to share. I would save my money so I could buy my own fireworks. The meaning of the holiday was embedded in us from the time we were born. The running from the firecracker after I lit it with a punk, the smell of the lingering smoke, and the beauty gunpowder can create will always remind me of family and freedom. As time has gone by, the idea of setting off fireworks seems to be foreign to many children today. I have taught my 8-year-old son how to handle fireworks responsibly. My hope is he will look back and tell his children about the wonderful Fourth of July family celebrations – oh, and Papa’s birthday.
When all of my fireworks were gone, I would climb up a hill where our round hay bales were located. If you sat patiently, you could see the fireworks from every surrounding town. It was nice to enjoy four light shows without ear damage.
Growing up, every Fourth of July was spent at my family’s cabin at the Lake of the Ozarks. My dad had five brothers and you could always count on plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins invading the cove, and our speed boat screaming up and down the lake with one of us attached to a rope behind it skiing, tubing or otherwise riding on something that floated. I’m not sure how we fit everyone, but kids would sleep on every couch, fold out bed and foam mat on the floor we could find. When we weren’t skiing or swimming, the games of water basketball were legendary and vicious and always pitted the uncles vs. the nieces and nephews. I can’t prove it, but I’ve always suspected it was a ploy for disciplinary revenge, and the only way our parents could hold us under water for whatever we’d gotten in trouble for previously. Also, my dad and his brothers liberally employed creative score keeping.
At night, we would grill burgers, chops or brats, and there was always watermelon. We would put a coffee can on our boat ramp and try to spit seeds into it from the roof of the boat house. Seedless watermelons are great, but sometimes I miss being able to aim for the coffee can. Once it got dark, we’d break out the fireworks, and you better look alive. There was a time a bottle rocket hit the lip of the boat house roof, ricocheted straight down the back of my cousin’s shirt, and another time a rocket fell over, causing it to shoot straight into the boat house where I was almost able to jump over it, but not quite. But my favorite fireworks mishap occurred the time we shot one of our rockets out over the lake, where it soared all the way to the other bank…and landed in the fireworks bag of the people across the lake, setting off the entire bag at once.
Please take this as a word of warning, and don’t do what my family did, and have a happy and safe Fourth of July.