You may remember when Fourth of July was called Independence Day. It was a day steeped in traditional patriotic songs and rituals. The American Flag was as much a reason for swelling emotions as the sight and sound of fireworks. We knew it symbolized bombs "bursting in air" and remembered the hard won battles that earned our freedom.
There were quite a few choices of how we would spend the day this 4th of July, as reported in my Orlando Grandparenting Examiner column, but we finally settled on the 23rd annual Independence Day Family Picnic at nearby Rockledge's McClarty Park. "Inflatable games were be available for $5 per person for the day. Meal tickets will be available for $1 and include hamburger, hot dog, chips and a drink. Admission and parkingre free. " That understated ad gained our favor and as it turned out there was much more to enjoy.
I was glad we arrived at 10am, the very beginning of the day, when there were still a few places to park as the event was packed shortly after that. The park is blessed with huge shady pine trees, a large pavillion, baseball diamond, basketball court, tennis courts and a swimming pool that was open but unoccupied since no one had thought to announce it would be available and free of charge to anyone who wanted to swim. It would have been a great idea given the 90-98 degree heat during the day.
There were 4 inflatable houses appealing to children of all ages and sizes. We were quick to get the youngest grandson an admission bracelet that entitled him to all-day fun there for only $5. There were two wet inflatable slides. One was quite high and offered a wet slide to a shallow splash at the bottom. Another Rainbow slip and slide was an inflated slip n' slide arrangement that was really designed for heavier kids and adults as they had to take a running jump on to the raised slide which propelled them straight out (not down a slope) across a wet inflated bag. The Spiderman Jump house was great for kids up to about 70 pounds who didn't necessarily want to get wet and another jump Castle was for even smaller kids. The older boy had a wonderful time unseating a man in a dunk tank by hitting a target with a softball. The pitchers and the human target were having a great time and the man in the tank enjoyed spraying the pitchers with his waterhose when they missed. This game was free and attracted kids of all ages.
A one-dollar a person lunch of freshly cooked hotdogs and hamburgers (still smoking from the grill) were served along with a choice of chips and a variety of icy cold drinks. Ice cream was also available (extra) as were smoothies, soft drinks and t-shirts.
A DJ kept the tunes spinning until about noon when a lovely young lady sang the Star Spangled Banner introducing the live entertainment portion of the program.
A small "train" locomotive was finally cranked up to take children and adults on a quick tour of the park and there was a long line waiting by the time we left.
We all enjoyed the event very much, but were ready for a swim by the time we had eaten lunch so we headed home.
Tonight we might enjoy a baseball game followed by the usual spectacular fireworks display at Space Coast Stadium, or head over to Cocoa Beach to watch the display by the pier, but we will probably follow tradition and enjoy the ballpark fireworks from our pool.
Thank God for freedom and for this wonderful country where so much is right!