How I love the 4th of July! As a kid, I lived for the darn thing. Of course, growing up in Midland, Texas, didn’t exactly afford me any fabulous sights. We had to settle for sparklers in the backyard and blowing up fireworks out in the country with neighborhood friends. The most exciting 4th back then was when Bob Hope came to town and rode around in a golf cart in our little local stadium. That was the same year I got stuck upside down in the ferris wheel for what seemed an eternity. My friend who was stuck with me was Catholic and confessed all her sins to me. It was an eye-opening day in so many ways.
My first really cool 4th was when I moved to New York City in 1986. It happened to be the 100th birthday celebration of the Statue of Liberty. There were some pretty fancy goings-on in the Big Apple, let me tell you. Fresh off the plane from Texas, with my hair teased as high as I could get it (my Louisiana-native makeup artist friend says, “The higher the hair, the closer to God”), I went to the Brooklyn Promenade to watch the festivities. Everybody had their radios tuned in to hear the music being played simultaneously with the firework display. What got me most was listening to all these immigrants belt out, God Bless America with tears in their eyes. They really meant it. It made me cry, too.
I love all the little local parades here in the Northeast and how each town celebrates in its own special way. Isn’t it cool to live in one of the original 13 colonies?
Now that I’m a mom, I want to make sure that each and every 4th is special for my kid (soon to be kids). None of this lamb and bonfire stuff my husband’s Dutch relatives try to pass off as an American holiday. Nope—we need hot dogs, potato salad, and baked beans.
That’s why I’m kind of pumped about all the cool stuff going on this year at Van Cortlandt Manor and Washington Irving’s Sunnyside.
A parade at the Manor will start with a real “Boom!”—a canon being fired! Then people in period costumes will march through the area singing period songs and giving rousing speeches. Military re-enactors will invite folks to drill and muster.
And Sunnyside will have a full day of entertainment with dramatic presentation, more rousing speeches, period music, and traditional country dancing for everyone. You also can play “town ball”—something similar to baseball, I think—with the costumed guides.
I just think it’s a cool way to introduce your kids to a very important part of our history. I mean, it really brings the whole independence story to life—much more so than any ol’ dusty history book can.
In the weeks following the 4th, Philipsburg Manor, Van Cortlandt Manor, and Sunnyside will all be doing Summerweek HIstory Day Camp for children ages 9 to 11. Basically? Kids have fun while experiencing daily life of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Truth is, all the historic Hudson Valley homes have cool programs throughout the year, so be sure and check them out. Just don’t do what I did and go on a Monday. Van Cortlandt Manor is open only Thursday to Sunday. Oh well…the gift shop was open and I did get a cute picture of Maisie in a Dutch hat for her 100-percent lamb-eating Dutch relatives. Luckily, she’s too young to know better and thought putting on the hat was the whole reason we drove forty minutes to get there! I can’t wait to have the baby and get my brain back. Sigh.