What you are about to see shows a full weekend of celebrating America in a variety of ways, from a small-town parade to historic Greenfield Village to historic Mill Race Village to my own hometown.
What a time we had!
~~~~~~~* * * * * * * * *~~~~~~
I believe I celebrated Independence Day more this year than I have since...well...since 1976!
For me it began on Saturday July 2 when my wife & I, along with our two youngest (who are both adults now) traveled a bit north to the wonderful Village of Lexington (Michigan) specifically to enjoy their parade celebrating the holiday at hand.
|In my youth I probably spent as much time in and around this wonderful place as I |
did in my suburban Detroit city. Lexington, which was named for the
Massachusetts city where the Revolutionary War began,
will always be my second home.
They've held this parade as far back as I can remember, though it's been a few decades since we attended. It is very typical of a small-town parade, strongly localized, but, most of all, fun. I would much rather see a parade of this sort any day over the giant conglomerate-type parades major cities hold; the smaller parades are far more intimate, with a feeling of community.
|When they played The Star-Spangled Banner, everyone stood, most men removing|
their hats and the majority placing their hands over their hearts. Lots of hurrahs
and clapping after ward.
|The local high school band, tractors, local politicians, military veterans, horses, |
wonderful makeshift floats, and the scouts, here, carrying the American flag,
all marched by.
|I did not get the name of the company, but there was one group who, instead of |
throwing candies, they, instead, threw individually wrapped pickles!!
|Then there were all of the firetrucks bringing up the rear, sirens blaring (and our |
dog, Paul Anka, joining in by howling). There was one firetruck who showered
the street with water, and the young ones all ran to get splashed and soaked.
|So there we were, all patriotic and having a great time!|
|And what would a stop in Lexington be without a visit to one of my most favorite hamburger joints, Wimpy's Place? Not half as good, that's for sure. Jim, |
the owner, has been running this diner since 1987. Best burgers in the business!
Yep---this was a wonderful way to begin our long 4th of July Holiday weekend.
Next up for Patty and I was to attend, for the first time in at least a decade, the Salute to America special event at Greenfield Village. This is an evening celebration of America's birth, and the highlight for most that go is the concert performance by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, culminating with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture including live cannon fire to accent the final portion of this very popular classical music piece. From there, the fireworks extravaganza takes place, comparable to any other illumination displays out there, though not lasting quite as long.
Within the previous couple of years they changed the program up a bit. Where it used to be you went into the Village and found a spot to sit and there you sat for the duration, ending around 10:00, now we could go in a couple hours earlier and roam about the Village, which takes on a different look and feel in the evening hours. The historic houses were not open, mind you, but they did have small vignettes placed in different locations throughout, including the "Summer 1943: A Small-Town Wartime Homefront," which, on the night we went featured my friend Jillian.
|One of my favorite WWII models, Jillian,|
with one of my favorite drinks, Coca Cola!
There were also vignettes of "The American Obsession with the Lawn," "Summer of 1976 - A Bicentennial Picnic," as well as 1913 carousel ride and Model T photo opps.
Music was spread throughout the Village as well - all kinds of wonderful American music:
|from 18th century fife and drum with the |
1st Michigan Colonial Fife & Drum Corps to...
| ...19th century folk tunes with Neil Woodward and Ranka Mulkern to...|
|...19th century fiddle music featuring JJ Przewozniak to...|
|...turn of the century ragtime performed by Taslimah Bey to...|
|...traditional 1930s blues with Reverend Robert Jones to...|
|...old-timey string band music with Picks & Sticks to...|
...19th century saxhorn musicians known as the Dodworth Saxhorn Band, and old-time foot stomping Gospel music performed by The North Star Chorale. This was all great American music, which culminated at sunset with...
|...the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, who performed until darkness and fireworks time.|
A wonderfully diversified variety of music - a larger variety than what one can see most places - and all performed live.
For Salute to America, Patty and I "dressed period" to help us get a little extra spirit of '76 in us - - - that is, we wore clothing appropriate to life in America for the Common Folk in the period that produced the Declaration of Independence. My wife does not reenact nearly as much as she used to, so I was as pleased as could be when she came out of our bedchamber ready for an 18th century evening.
|This is one of two similar pictures of Patty & I on the wood porch of the JR Jones General Store. Yeah, the store is from the 1850s, but the architecture is not dramatically different from a store of a hundred years earlier.|
The fun began right off the bat when we were inside the Village gift shop before the gates opened and a young man, seeing the way I was dressed, was very interested in me and asked me questions.
|My friend, Charlotte, captured the moment I spoke with the |
young man about history.
This was a very enjoyable experience.
The patrons really seemed to enjoy seeing colonial folk at such an event, which, aside from the fife & drum corps, we were the only ones to be dressed in 1770s fashions, and many took our picture (of which we didn't mind at all).
|This picture of the two of us was taken while we sat on the |
porch of the 1831 Eagle Tavern. Again, like the General Store,
the look of taverns in the first half of the 19th century were not
very different at all from those built in the 18th century.
|And here is one of my favorite pictures of my wife and I.|
Thirty seven years married and we still act like young love...
(it's not acting...)
I actually did a little photo-magic with my Paint Shop Pro on this one,
and changed it up a bit to give it a more colonial-flavored backdrop:
|The house on the right - the red Plympton Home - was built in the early 1700s. It was at this house that the brother of one of the men who rode with Paul Revere on the night of April 18, 1775 came to alert the sexton, Thomas Plympton, to let him know of the movement toward Concord by the Redcoats.|
The house on the left was originally thought to have been an early 18th century home, but through intensive research was found to have been actually built in the later 1830s.
Now for the picture of the night, in my opinion:
|I asked Charlotte if she wouldn't mind taking a photo of Patty and I |
from behind as we watched the fireworks.
I am very pleased at the outcome.
This was such a fun time, and I am so glad we went. The changes made to the Salute to America event were all in the positive, as far as I'm concerned. They made a similar change to their Hallowe'en event as well, and that, too, was by far for the better.
We made it home by 11:00 that July 3rd night, and we were whipped, though the excitement of the evening made it difficult to fall asleep right away.
But I had to get to sleep, for I had another big day the next day: the 4th of July itself!
|Welcome to the 4th of July|
Ever since a few of us have been heading to historic Mill Race Village to celebrate the 4th of July, beginning back in 2017, it has become our annual place to keep Independence Day in a traditional manner. Over the years we've had famous people from the Revolutionary era, including Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, and Paul Revere (as portrayed by yours truly), take part. We even had George Washington join us one time. The highlight of the day would be hearing Ben Franklin recite the Declaration of Independence.
Each successive July 4th in those pre-covid years, the number of reenactors who would come out grew. Unfortunately, due to covid, 4th of July 2020 did not happen at all. 4th of July 2021 was little better, but only because a few of us made the trip to Mill Race on our own - nothing official was going on. However, there were a few dozen people who trickled through, and the few of us who came out in our period clothing would speak to them and actually give presentations about our great American history.
Yeah...we still had a pretty darn good time, and those we spoke to loved it and thanked us for being there.
Our great pleasure!
So this year of 2022, with everything pretty much open, we came out in full-force...and so did the visitors! I don't believe I've seen as many visitors ever come out as I did this year. After being told to stay home due to covid for two years, and more lately, were told to stay home due to extreme gas prices, the people were ready to get out and celebrate! They were ready to enjoy themselves like they haven't in quite a while! They were tired of all the negativity and wanted to accentuate the positive!
And we were ready to help them eliminate that negative!
|The crowd began pouring in right after the Northville parade.|
|The entire Village was soon packed - people were ready to celebrate and have fun.|
They were ready to:
ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive,
e-lim-i-nate the negative,
latch on to the affirmative,
don't mess with Mr. In-between.
And we tried to spread joy up to the maximum -
Bring gloom down to the minimum,
have faith, or pandemonium
liable to walk upon the scene...
|People from all over were there, some new to this country, some generational, |
and some just visiting from elsewhere. But all were enjoying the celebration.
|The couple that "Captain America Kevin" and I were speaking with were from Britain |
and they wanted to experience an American 4th of July. I don't think they were disappointed. We enjoyed some banter and history - and I mentioned that I love
England because they'd given us The Beatles.
|Though this picture does not show it too well, I made a street of flags. |
I had placed six replicated historic flags along the road here.
Beginning on the left I have:
the Pine Tree flag (or the Appeal to Heaven flag) from 1775
the orange Don't Tread On Me Gadsden flag from 1775
the Grand Union Flag from 1775 (has the British flag as its canton)
the Betsy Ross flag from 1776 (partially hidden from spectators)
the white Minutemen flag from Culpeper, Virginia from 1775
the red Liberty & Union flag, also from 1775
I only wish I had taken a better photo of them. I was told, and also saw, many people looking at the flags and having their picture taken with them. How cool is that?
I began collecting historic flags nearly two decades ago and have been purchasing them ever since. I fly them at my house frequently, which garners great conversations from passersby.
It was so good to see the many reenactors who came out and helped to make this Independence Day a memorable one for so many visitors and participants, and I certainly appreciate each and every one of them:
|Our three musketeers (lol) who headed up the musket firing|
after the reading of the Declaration of Independence.
|Betsy Ross, on the right, with her niece. |
Okay, so it's not really Betsy and her niece - it's actually Christy and Jackie,
and between the two of them they gave a wonderful history of Betsy Ross and
spoke on whether or not she may have sewn the infamous flag
that bears her name.
|I was speaking with this young lady, and through the course of our conversation she mentioned she loved Benjamin Franklin. Her mother mentioned that there was an infatuation of a sort. So, I asked the girl (and mom) to come with me and, well, |
the look on her face when she saw the man who was obviously
Ben Franklin was priceless!
|Getting ready for the big day.|
Can you imagine what it was like to actually be a part of that generation
that produced such a document as the Declaration of Independence?
|Members of the 1st Pennsylvania - Tony and my son Robbie.|
|~A Moment in Time~|
On March 11, 1776, General George Washington issued a General Order to Colonels or Commanding Officers of regiments of the Continental Army. Washington's order directed these officers to select four men from each regiment who would form his personal guard.
|Chris and Matthew dressed as and spoke about George Washington's Life Guards.|
That is Matthew's wife helping out on the right.
Washington wrote, "His Excellency depends upon the Colonels for good Men, such as they can recommend for their sobriety, honesty and good behavior; he wishes them to be from five feet eight Inches high, to five feet ten Inches; handsomely and well made, and as there is nothing in his eyes more desirable than Cleanliness in a Soldier, he desires that particular attention be made in the choice of such men as are clean and spruce."
It was disbanded in 1783 at the end of the war. On November 9, 1783, Captain Howe received orders from General Washington to "take charge of the Wagons which contain my baggage, and with the escort proceed with them to Virginia and deliver the baggage at my house, ten miles below Alexandria."
Six wagons filled with General Washington’s belongings, but more importantly, the official records of eight years of war, were successfully delivered to Mount Vernon on December 20, 1783. Upon his own retirement from the army in the summer of 1784, Caleb Gibbs gathered together the official records of the Lifeguards. They were secured in a trunk and stored at the Charlestown Navy Yard where Gibbs worked after the war. Despite surviving war, weather and constant movement, the vast majority of the records were destroyed in a fire at the Navy Yard in 1815.
|The day was filled with smiles...and wonderful (though hot) weather.|
|Minister Gerring attends to his flock.|
Perhaps he is giving them direction on proper fashion-wear for ladies?
|Before entering the Mill Race Village grounds, Charlotte took some time to move |
about the crowd of parade watchers lining Northville's Main Street, helping and
guiding them with history lessons.
Many of those same folk came to see us at Mill Race.
|My son brought along his portable writing desk and quill & ink.|
Anytime one can show bits of past life is exciting to the spectators
and is always a teaching moment.
|Members of the Penn State Line marched and drilled,|
much to the thrill of the spectators.
|Some long-time reenactors~|
Ken, on the right, has been reenacting since 1960!
At one point in his reenacting "career," he portrayed Abraham Lincoln.
Finally, 12:30 came around and it would soon be time for the reading of the Declaration of Independence.
|I always enjoy speaking|
to the public.
Just as I did in 2019, I gave a short sort of prequel before Dr. Franklin's recitation of the Declaration. It was a very quick overview on what lead us to declare independence, including historical minutes about the different taxes (the various "acts") of the 1760s and early 1770s), and about the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party. I spoke a bit about Paul Revere and the beginnings of the Revolution at Lexington & Concord, and then of Thomas Paine's "Common Sense." I then touched on the writing of the Declaration, including the committee of five who were putting it all together, as well as the response from the people upon hearing it for the first time once it was finally printed and read in public on the 4th of July, the 8th of July in Philadelphia, the 9th of July in New York (when George Washington heard it), and elsewhere in the weeks following. Probably the part of my speech I enjoyed the most was when I told of how after it was read aloud to the public in various cities, cheers for the new United States of America were had, musket fire and cannon fire took place, and church and school bells rang into the night. However, in New York, after it was read to George Washington, a rambunctious crowd of listeners meandered south on Broadway, lassoed the large statue of King George and pulled on the rope "until the two-ton statue capsized with a tremendous crash," And then on how it was carted in fragments to a foundry, "where patriot women melted the lead, ladled it into molds, and soon sent the army 42,088 bullets."
|There were a few whoops from the crowd on that one as well!|
It was then that I introduced Dr. Franklin to the crowd of modern visitors.
Bob Stark has been portraying Benjamin Franklin for nearly 20 years, and he does such an amazing job. Of course, he has studied Franklin and his times intently, so to bring the founding father to life is relatively easy for him.
|Dr. Franklin stepped out with a copy of the John Dunlap version of|
the Declaration. John Dunlap was a printer in Philadelphia and
was the first person to print this most famous of broadsides
under Franklin's watchful eyes.
Then the guest of honor took center stage and opened the broadside and began to read...
"In Congress, July 4, 1776.
A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America
In General Congress Assembled.
When in the Course of Human Events..."
He then began to roll the broadside up...but he continued to say the words that were written upon it!
He had it memorized!
Everyone was enthralled.
|The fact that he has memorized the entire document is in itself pretty amazing.|
And when he finished, the crowd clapped...and then then I was able to galvanize the audience into giving three cheers for Dr. Franklin...
|...and then three cheers for the new United States of America...|
and then the muskets began to fire...
|...just like they did 246 years ago!|
|And from another part of Mill Race...more muskets!|
|...and another part of Mill Race!|
|These two lovely young ladies, sitting upon the grass, looking demure, |
took off a-running to the church and school house to ring the bells.
Yes, they are daughters of Liberty!
So, with the musketry, the church and school bells ringing, and the huzzahs, the patrons throughout Mill Race Village were all smiling and clapping, for they were now witnessing and experiencing exactly what I had told them only minutes before, about how the folks who lived in the period that produced the Declaration of Independence responded upon hearing it read for the first time.
They were celebrating like it was 1776!
|Here I am with my two bell ringers, Jennifer and Amy.|
It wasn't until afterward that they realized their importance in the
historical way we celebrated. To hear the bells a-ringing and the
muskets firing at the same time while people clapped and shouted
"Huzzahs!" was a time-travel experience like no other.
I'm so proud!
|A table was set up with various replicated historical documents |
as well as a copy of the Declaration for people to sign.
|This garnered quite a bit of attention.|
They did a fine job in the lay out.
|This is the Declaration that visitors could sign.|
Was this not the best way to celebrate (unless one was in Philadelphia, of course!)?
The Mill Race Village event ended at 3 that 4th of July afternoon, allowing everyone to continue to do more celebrating at their own homes or, perhaps, at a party. In fact, all around my own home that night were fireworks of all kinds blowing off, and I was in the middle of it, making attempts to capture some of the brilliant illuminations John Adams had hoped future generations would have (as he did write in a letter to his wife, Abigail):
|The sky in front of my house~|
"I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations,
as the great anniversary Festival."
|In front of my house~|
"It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn
Act of Devotion to God Almighty."
|In front of my house on the night of July 4~|
"It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns,
Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of the Continent to the other..."
|In front of my house~|
"...from this Time forward forever more."
|And my own bunting on my porch with the glow of our front light behind it.|
As you can see, my Independence Holiday Weekend was filled to the brim. Come Tuesday the 5th, I was so tired...and walked like a 100 year old man. Yeah, I have lower back issues and sciatica, but I didn't let that bother me. Sometimes it's mind over matter, and though I did pay for it, it was well worth it. As Carly Simon once sang, "I haven't got time for the pain."
And neither do I.
You may have probably guessed, the weather was absolutely perfect the entire three day weekend. Yeah, maybe a little warm for my taste, but it didn't rain; it didn't even cloud up until late in the evening of the 4th and the wee morning hours of the 5th.
No complaints from me - Providence was shining down upon us.
There is only one holiday I like more than Independence Day, and that is Christmas. Just everything about the 4th of July makes me feel happy, proud, patriotic, and historic, all at the same time. And throughout this entire three-day weekend, everyone we saw was happy, smiling, and saying "Happy 4th!"
I love it.
With the sestercentennial (the 250th) of our nation's birth only four years away, I like to think of this weekend as a sort of precursor of celebrations to come. In fact, I already have plans in my head on how we can celebrate in 2026. But you'll have to wait a few years for that.
Until next time, see you in time.
I took a number of photographs here, but I was not the only one; many, many thanks to all who did:
(you'll note their patriotic watermark in the bottom right corner of their photos)
Other historical 4th of July celebrations I've had over the past decade:
The Glorious Fourth
- 2012 was my first year where I began to celebrate Independence Day in a more historical and serious manner. It's when I got the bright idea to wear period clothing and visit historic Greenfield Village.
I am SO glad I began this tradition!
So here we are, enjoying a Victorian (1860s) 4th of July day at Greenfield Village. What we did not realize until we left was the temperature got up to 101 degrees! Yes, we were hot in all those clothes! But what a fine day we had!
Also from 2015 (and frequently updated thereafter):
Oh---one more thing -
Were you around during America's Bicentennial celebrations?
Then you will probably remember much - if not most - of this.
Information on George Washington's Life Guards came directly from THIS
~ ~ ~