Through the window I can see Kelly Sobotka draping red-white-and-blue tablecloths over the folding tables in my backyard. As a baseball-loving father of five, he doesn’t seem the least bit self-conscious about doing the decorating.
As I step out of my house I’m enveloped by the smells of a perfect summer morning. The tang of dewy grass, sweet honeysuckle, and a scented cornucopia of blooming flowers.
We endured a long, cold, wet spring this year. But summer has made its long-awaited entrance and all that remains of spring is a memory.
It’s a bit overcast for the 4th of July.
But somehow the warm caress in the air promises the day will be just right.
Kelly’s the first one in my yard this morning—working quietly in preparation for a neighborhood tradition that was begun a few years ago by the Sobotka and Norton families.
While the rest of the valley is drawn to the flash and crowds of the Provo Freedom Festival—this little neighborhood chooses to do its own thing.
Kelly protests as I sweep my patio. He tells me that I’m not supposed to do anything besides enjoy the day. But it feels good to pick up a broom and help make everything perfect.
Soon, the bishopric from our local LDS congregation arrives and begins firing up the grills. They’re in charge of the sausages and pancakes. Someone hands them floppy Uncle Sam hats (they look more like Cat in the Hat hats) but the guys are game and they put them on.
Stephanie Sobotka begins arranging food on the tables and soon there's a smorgasbord of fruit and breakfast casseroles laid out like an edible rainbow.
The Dyers are setting up their instruments on the far side of the lawn. They’re framed in the background by sagebrush and foxtail that are tinged with gold by a few rays of sun that peek through the clouds.
There’s clearly something different here this morning.
Perhaps it’s what happens when a bunch of people quietly pitch in to make something wonderful happen.
Or maybe it’s the collective thoughts of a neighborhood focused on something good. After all, we’re celebrating those quiet strokes of a quilled pen on July 4th, 1776.
To the Red-Tailed Hawk flying far above, I imagine my yard looks like an anthill. More neighbors are scurrying around making the final preparations for the arrival of the parade.
We have our own neighborhood parade—complete with a float for “royalty” (for any little girl who wants to dress up like a princess), a grand marshal (my 84 year-old neighbor, Lisle Loosle), and hordes of bicycles and lawn mowers festooned in red-white-and-blue.
And soon the parade comes around the corner.
Led by Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts carrying historic U.S. flags—they march with the perfect mixture of pride and solemnity.
Behind them comes David and Sharon Lay—dressed as Aunt and Uncle Sam.
Then comes Craig Bennett in his convertible, with our grand marshal in the passenger seat. I imagine that Lisle has been chosen not only because he’s a good man with a long history of service to his fellow men, but because his sweet wife, Maria, lies sick at home with cancer.
It’s the neighborhood’s way of saying, “We love you. We support you. We’re here for you.”
A truck pulling a flatbed trailer with our petite “Royalty” comes next. Each pretty little pixie is dolled up in a formal princess gown. Their average age is maybe 7?
Behind the royalty comes the chaos of a zillion bikes, 4-wheelers, lawn mowers, motorcycles, scooters, and carts. They turn the corner and descend upon my driveway with all the energy of a Sturgis biker rally. There are super heroes, karate kids, clowns, fairies, motocross riders, and every form of wheeled contraption imaginable.
I stand back, marvel, and shoot photos.
Soon the program is underway. Kids are asked to sit in front while our own Uncle Sam MC’s the event.
First the Cub Scouts present the historic flags: the Bunker Hill flag, the John Paul Jones flag, the 20 Star flag, the Fort Sumter flag, the 45 Star flag…and finally the 50 Star flag. A little tribute is given for each one.
Our Grand Marshal is then honored by a short reading of his (and his wife’s) life history. It strikes me that one can hardly encapsulate a life well-lived in a few paragraphs—but it gives us a glimpse of their goodness and influence over the last 80 or so years.
Next, we place our hands over our hearts and sing the Star Spangled Banner.
And most of us know all the words.
And what Independence Day celebration would be complete without music? For the past 235 years Americans have been celebrating their independence with ballads, bands, and every noise-maker known to man.
And we want to make some noise.
So our very own next-door-neighbors, the Dyers (and Tom Smith), light up the morning with guitars, a fiddle, and a full drum set.
Yeah, we don't have the flash of the bigger 4th of July celebrations—but this one is all ours.
And we wouldn't have it any other way.
Happy 4th of July.
To view and download more photos, click here.
To view and download more photos, click here.