On Wednesday, to celebrate the fourth, Matthew and I took Mason to Waterfront Park in Clermont for their Red, White and Boom event.
The family friendly event offered free admission, a shuttle service for attendees, family activities such as a bounce house and train ride as well as live music from Gary Roland and the Landsharks Band.
We got there a bit late so we missed the opening ceremonies and the welcome speech from Gail Ash, Mayor of Clermont since 2014.
The live band had already started, donned in their striped shirts and sunglasses they were playing Barbara Ann by The Beach Boys. Mason bopped up and down in his stroller watching the “big kids” with hula hoops swivel their hips to the lyrics.
We took a few laps around the tent area, stopping to look at some of the hand-crafted goods people had on display. There of course was a hot dog stand, beer stand and shaved ice stand, hell even McDonalds was there.
There were a few tents with volunteers campaigning for their local representatives with cutouts of our current and former presidents on opposite sides of the aisle. One of whom wasn’t getting a whole lot of love, but we won’t name any names.
A trail of wet foot prints and laughter followed behind the kids running in and out of the water slide area. Each one patiently (and sometimes impatiently) waiting their turn to go down the slide. Their parents waiting with open arms, just outside the now large mud puddle at the end of the slide ready to catch them as they came barreling down.
The City of Clermont Fire Department was in attendance flying a large American flag at the end of a truck’s erected ladder. Families lined up waiting their turn to let their kids sit at the wheel of the huge rig, granting them 30 seconds of being an honorary firefighter.
Waiting for the fireworks to start we let Mason run around on the playground for a while. I couldn’t help but notice the diversity and the innocence of kids playing on the playground. On a day like Independence Day it’s hard not to acknowledge the turmoil our country is in. The racism, the hate, none of which was evident on the playground.
“Racism isn’t born folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.” — Denis Leary
I only bring this up because it was as I sat and watched our son climbing the stairs of the playground with kids of all race and religion that I received an update on my phone. It was about a woman who just a few hours earlier had scaled the Statue of Liberty to protest migrant family separations. Three hours she stayed at the feet of our Lady Liberty. Three hours.
It’s strange the things you notice. In those rare moments where time slows down, when innocence and the promise of the future is right there in front of you.This country’s greatness lies within it’s diversity. Our America, or at least the one I’d like our son to grow up in, is the one I was watching unfold in front of me.
I watched as the kids played, free to speak, free of fear, free to be who they were created to be. Independence Day is meant to celebrate that freedom. Our diverse and unique playground.
It was 9:15 when Mayor Ash made the announcement that the fireworks were about to begin. Mason pointed in awe as colors blasted across the sky. His little mind trying to find the right words, “wow,” he said.
As we began to leave trying to beat the rain, we walked past families of all walks of life lining the sidewalks, the beaches and picnic tables, their heads held high looking upward, wrapped in their country’s colors of red, white and blue. I couldn’t help but wonder if my ancestors had felt that same patriotism as they laid eyes upon the Statue of Liberty for the first time.
In this moment, as the fireworks went soaring through the sky we weren’t Black, or White, or Hispanic. We weren’t Catholic, Islamic or Atheist. No, in this moment, we were all on the playground. In this moment, we were Americans.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”