Here it is a week before the American holiday known as ‘The 4th’… American Independence Day! It’s is the perfect holiday to be as cheesy as possible with lots of the National colors of red, white and blue, stars, stripes, fireworks, cookouts and friends!
How we celebrate differs from region to region, city to city, even neighbor to neighbor! Baseball in the park, a backyard barbecue, splashing at the beach, or a boat ride on the lake, there are as many choices as there are people in the USA! It’s not too late to organize your own celebration for next weekend:
1) First, check out the offerings in your community. Will there be a parade. fireworks display, community concert or block party? If there is something that you can tag your party onto, planning will be much simpler! For instance: if there is a parade, can you gather some family and friends to enter a float, decorate a golf cart or even bicycles? Part of the party will be the decorating! If there is a fireworks display, invite everyone over for an old fashioned pot luck supper, asking everyone to bring a favorite dish to go with whatever you are throwing on the grill. Then at dark, go as a group to see the fireworks, serving homemade ice cream out of a cooler with cookies as you all Ooohh and Aaahh!
2) Select your venue, be it a nearby lake, your summer home, a public park or your own back yard! Don’t hesitate to ask guests to bring their own lawn chairs if you need more outdoor seating, but keep in mind the summer heat, especially in the South. Make sure that you have enough shade. You may need to rent a tent or use pop-up canopies to provide relief from the sweltering sun. If parking will be an issue, suggest that your guests carpool if possible.
3) Organize your guest list, keeping in mind how many people your venue can accommodate. A list of total strangers to each other will not an exciting party make. While it is smart to include new folks in your mix… that is how people get to know one another, after all… be sure that a simple majority know and like each other or have such a huge list of common interests that they will think they have known each other always!
4) Plan your menu. For a small crowd, I usually do everything myself and if guests insist on bringing something, I usually steer them in the direction of an appetizer, beverage or dessert. We were invited to a large 4th of July party this year in which the invitation broke everything down ‘church supper style’. That is to say, people with the last name initials A-D were to bring appetizers, E-H were ask to furnish the salad of their choice, I-L a vegetable dish, etc. This is a great way to organize a crowd and make sure the potluck offerings are evenly dispersed!
Of course, you may wish to provide the entire menu yourself, but the Independence Day holiday seems to bring neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend in a way that we rarely see any longer. It is this old fashioned gathering together that makes a pot luck dinner a natural!
5) If you don’t have some built in activities, like swimming, boating or horse back riding, that are part of your venue, plan some group activities that will get everyone involved! Such a tug or war game, volleyball, croquet, or pitching horseshoes, just to name a few. Appoint those folks who won’t or can’t participate to be the official photographers, others to be the score keepers, and those that are left to be the cheering squad! The important thing is: Don’t leave anyone out!!!
6) Check with your city or county ordinances regarding the use of personal fireworks. Some areas ban them completely while others allow some, such as sparklers, but not nothing that shoots into the air. Whatever you do, make sure that you follow your local laws. More importantly, if you do ‘shoot off’ fireworks, designate one person to be in charge of safety. That person needs to make certain that no one does anything to harm themselves or others by holding fireworks or aiming them at people or buildings. Provide a bucket with sand to place bottle rockets and Roman candles in, a water house with the water running… just in case, and a first aid kit. Children should never be allowed to light fireworks on their own. Be certain that there is nothing on the ground that will trip the designated lighter as he or she makes a dash away from the lit explosive. Last, but certainly not least, the lighter of the fireworks should not have imbibed in any ‘adult beverages’ that would impair his or her judgment or physical abilities.
7) Last, but not least… remember WHY we have able to celebrate our independence since 1776.
For the next several days, I am going to post some great 4th of July recipes. The first is my Aunt Mary Frances’ Barbecue Sauce. Enjoy!
West Texas Barbecue Sauce
1/2 C Hot, brewed, decaf coffee
1/2 C Ketchup
2 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbs Vinegar
1 tsp finely grated onion
1/2 tsp Salt
Dash of pepper or to taste
Combine all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Makes 1 1/3 cups of sauce. Delicious on brisket, ribs, chicken, and makes a great topping on meatloaf.