I am lucky enough to live in a town that stages one of the best July 4 celebrations around. I tell my out-of-town friends that July 4 is so big around here that it takes five days to celebrate it. The capstone event – after days of parades, music, fairs and all-around fun – is the Cody Stampede Fireworks display.
It won’t be long now before I find myself once again in the stands at the Cody Stampede awaiting Cody’s version of the world’s biggest simultaneous display of pyrotechnics. The stands will be packed, and I’ll be surrounded by my friends, each of us garishly adorned in red, white and blue clothing, accessories and face paint.
If any of my fashionista friends are appalled, I will remind them that they have John Adams to blame. Yes, that John Adams. Our country’s second president, famous pen pal to Thomas Jefferson and inspiration for a catchy song in the Broadway musical “1776.” (“Sit down, John! Sit down, John! For God’s sake, John, sit down!)
Before he placed his signature on the Declaration of Independence, John Adams came up with the idea of celebrating what has become known as Independence Day with a grand display of pyrotechnics. Fireworks weren’t new; they’d been around since the 12th century. But even 241 years ago they were quite special, intended to be a joyful, celebratory experience.
Adams was known to be a fan of tradition, pomp and elaborate celebrations, so his wife Abigail couldn’t have been surprised when he wrote in a letter to her that Independence Day should be commemorated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
Wow. The guy really liked his fireworks.
So, when I share that pre-fireworks selfie of me and my friends in face paint and silly hats, just remember that we are simply complying with the solemn wishes of one of our country’s first presidents. It is our patriotic duty.
P.S. If anyone knows what a “Shew” is, please message me.
Until next time, I’m loving life and buying new paintbrushes here in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country.