On the eve of another Independence Day, I find myself looking back and realizing that my favorite July Fourths have all occurred since I moved to Takoma Park in 1989. The Takoma Park parade is one of the highlights of any year, exhibiting the grassroots in splendid style. We don’t have giant balloons of cartoon characters or (many) corporate floats.
Instead, the kids from the local Scout troop show off their soapbox cars, perhaps a volunteer from the TPSS Food Co-op rolls a giant watermelon through the streets, and The Morning Few reliably blast out a rock and roll jam.
I don’t recall any such expression of hometown independence when I was growing up. In fact, the only July 4 memory I can actually recall occurred in 1976 when my family lived in suburban Baltimore. That summer, Charm City did its best to whip up bicentennial fever. In an attempt to educate the public, fireplugs around the city were painted to portray various figures of the American Revolution. Nathan Hale only had one life to give for his country, but he had countless gallons of pressurized water to give to the fire-fighting effort.
On July 3, 1976, a 35 ton birthday cake replica of Fort McHenry, topped with 200 candles was to be towed around the harbor while a cannon sounded from the actual fort. Ed McMahon, Jose Feliciano, and Burl Ives were on hand to enliven the event, which was televised nationally. Finally, Baltimore was getting its due as the home of the national anthem. Unfortunately, technical difficulties plagued the extravaganza. Candles didn’t light, cannons didn’t fire, and a big cake in a dark harbor just doesn’t come off as well as you might think.
The Baltimore City Council intended to pay for the bicentennial birthday celebration by selling slices of the famed confection. Unfortunately, the cake was ravaged by rats before any funds could be raised.
That sparkler fizzled.
On the other hand, Takoma Park delivers independence, neighborliness, and fun on a tight budget year after year.
I’ll be out in the street tomorrow capturing the action. We’ll have photos up on the Voice website as soon as possible.
In the meantime, check out last year’s parade on the Voice website: