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Old-fashioned Independence Day

Somehow, the fact that we had to pick the seeds out of our watermelon didn’t make the Fourth of July any less enjoyable when I was a kid. Matter of fact, watermelons seemed to be sweeter then.

Independence Day was never intended by the Founders to be a day of somber reflection. They’d done something marvelous and they knew it. Some of them actually suggested the Fourth of July ought to be a day to pull out all the stops and have fun.

Of course, they didn’t have televisions, laptops and smart phones. Had high-tech come to the new nation then, maybe Ben Franklin and George Washington would have stayed inside all day on the Fourth, glued to their screens.

We did have televisions when I was young (Incidentally, try explaining black-and-white television to a youngster. They just can’t wrap their brains around it). But we didn’t have the all-day marathon movie presentations and similar productions intended to make couch potatoes out of all of us. Add the internet and social media, and why get out of your easy chair on the Fourth?

Try it. You might like it.

Picnics with dad’s potato salad and mom’s cherry pie complementing burgers and hot dogs grilled over charcoal (not propane) beckon.

Turning the crank on an old-fashioned ice cream maker pays off with the best vanilla or peach frozen dessert you’ve ever tasted.

Eating in company with park squirrels eager to sample the meal is better than any television show.

After lunch, if you’ve chosen the right picnic spot, the kids can learn about crawdads and salamanders under the rocks in the babbling brook nearby. Parents learn that watching the little ones to ensure they stay safe isn’t a chore when they’re having such fun.

Then, perhaps, it’s Fourth of July carnival time. Remember the last time you were on a ferris wheel? You don’t? Clearly, it’s time to try it again.

Even the midway games can be fun. In my youth, an older friend who’d worked for years in traveling carnivals explained to me in detail how each and every game is fixed. That still doesn’t take away from the fun of trying to land that thin wooden ring just where it needs to go to win the big prize.

No carnival in town? A softball and bat don’t cost much. Chose up teams and bring back the days of your athletic youth. No one objects when the 6-year-old gets 10 swings and never, ever strikes out.

Here in the Ohio Valley, we’re blessed with many attractions. Try taking the kids to the Good Zoo at Oglebay Park. Have they never in their lives fed a goat or petted a donkey before? Shame on you.

Then, as night begins to fall, there’s the annual free Fourth of July concert by the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra. Actually feeling the patriotic music is a treat not to be missed.

Finally, there are the fireworks.

Get out of the house early on Independence Day. Think for a moment about how great it is to be celebrating the most wonderful nation on Earth. Then go have more fun than you have in years.

And marvel, as you pull into the driveway at day’s end, that you didn’t look at your smartphone once.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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