Sparkling Independence Day memories

Reader-submitted celebrations and traditions highlight the spirit of the Fourth of July

Posted on Jun 25 2024 in Features
Fourth of July celebration

We asked readers to submit their favorite Fourth of July memories and traditions throughout the years. Here are some of their responses.

Our Fourth of July traditions include celebrating with family, grilling out, making s’mores, and setting off fireworks. We also take plenty of photos and make lots of memories each year.

The Fourth of July has always been special in my family. My father, Edward Franke, was born on July 4, 1917, on the Franke homestead. My dad had two brothers and one sister. I am the second of eight children of my parents, Edward and Dorothy Franke. We have many cousins and every July 4th we had a big celebration for my dad’s birthday and the birthday of our nation.

We had a 50-gallon oil drum cut in half that held the charcoal for grilling chicken, and my dad had special stainless steel racks made to hold the cut-up chicken pieces. A second rack went on top and wired at the corners to hold the chicken in place. Every 10 minutes or so, the racks would be flipped so each side of the chicken would cook and get nice and brown. We had a special sauce we slathered on the chicken each time it was turned. The sauce was made with vinegar, butter, and salt. We put eight chickens on the grill every July 4th to feed about 30 people.

Aunts, uncles, and cousins would come and spend the day playing games, eating, and visiting. It was a potluck, and there was always more food than anyone could devour. The big treat for us kids was homemade ice cream and, of course, Dad’s birthday cake. At the end of the day, we watched fireworks, and the kids had sparklers.

My dad lived to be 92. The family farm has been handed down through five generations and still produces corn and soybeans. When we have our Franke cousin reunion every couple of years at the farm, we always have our famous Franke chicken on the barrel.

I am 34 years old, and ever since I was a small child, my family and I have celebrated the Fourth of July at the Redkey Ballpark. Every year, the ballpark hosts their “Firecracker Tournament”. A crane hangs a huge flag, and baseball and softball are played all day and night on the holiday weekend. When my daughter was going through their softball program, I was a member of the Park Board, and the amount of volunteer hours from numerous people and companies was tremendous. The volunteer fire department of Redkey raises money throughout the year for the fireworks show, which is let off at the conclusion of the tournament. It’s a well-loved community and family tradition.

My Fourth of July memory is a tradition from my childhood. My dad worked third shift, so we never had the chance to attend the fireworks shows. So, my younger sister and I would put on a sparkler show. We set up the sparklers in the ground in different shapes, lit them, and enjoyed ourselves.

After the ground sparklers, we would do an aerial presentation. We performed a routine to patriotic music. We did this all right before our dad had to leave for work. My dad passed in 1979, and we never got to attend a real fireworks show with him. Now, I enjoy some sparklers with the kids and grandkids before the big fireworks show.

I loved our usual Fourth of July family tradition of devouring plenty of hamburgers, potato salad, and cherry popsicles. Dad would purchase a variety of fireworks for my brother and me. Our celebration was just for the four of us. In 2018, I knew my family’s Fourth of July tradition would be different, but I didn’t anticipate how much grander our celebration would turn out to be. When my mom, Geneva White, lost her ability to speak through a series of strokes and entered a senior living facility, I knew our holiday would never be the same.

In June, the activities director sent me a newsletter with information about the upcoming carnival and fireworks display. Later, I discovered the event was sponsored by the family of Corrie Talken, a former staff member who passed away at 25 and loved “her little senior citizens.”

I traveled from my home in Indiana to Missouri that weekend to check out the fun. I brought along matching USA T-shirts for Mom and me. We still had all the traditional foods, but Mom didn’t cook or clean up this time. We enjoyed the live music and anticipated the grand fireworks display from our lawn chairs. This time we were not alone but surrounded by more than 150 senior citizens and families. Our celebration wasn’t just our little family. We were now a part of a much larger and loving community. I hold on to the priceless memory of my mom smiling and pointing at the colorful fireworks on what turned out to be her last Independence Day. As the sky lit up my mom’s face, I knew this would be my favorite Fourth of July ever.