Recollections: More fun on the Fourth of July
By Thom Gerretsen
When Paul McCartney sang “Birthday” at his June 8 concert in Green Bay, he dedicated it to “everyone who has a birthday sometime this year.” But no matter when we were born, all 329 million Americans have a birthday on July 4. It’s “America’s birthday,” when we celebrate the United States’ independence from Britain. Many of us have more fun on the Fourth of July than on our actual birthdays.
Marshfield now has a community celebration on July 4 – six-plus hours of fun and frolic at the Fairgrounds, capped off by the traditional fireworks show. When I moved here in 1978, there were fireworks and not much else. Still, it was fun to share the occasion with others in the grandstand. Before our own show started, we could see what might have been fireworks from Auburndale, about 10 miles to the east; or perhaps some elaborate thing from somebody’s yard or farm.
City taxpayers used to shell out the costs of those large, colorful explosive shells. But in the 1990s, aldermen felt more pressure on the city budget. A few thousand dollars for fireworks were among the first things to go – and the Common Council made a plea for private donations to keep the event going. That indeed happened, and Festival Foods has sponsored Marshfield’s show for almost 15 years. Their grocery bags now list 22 Wisconsin communities where they’ll provide 2019’s July 4 fireworks.
How about a parade? Your house may have friends parading in-and-out for a birthday party – but it’s nothing compared to what Pittsville puts on for America’s birthday. In a city of almost 900 residents, thousands from throughout central Wisconsin line Highway 80 to see bands, fire trucks, horses – everything you’d want in a July 4th parade.
I covered almost every Pittsville parade during my nearly quarter-century of covering Marshfield area news for WDLB Radio and the News-Herald. I always loved the orange stickers on the street. You bought one for a buck and plopped it down where you wanted; and if a horse pooped on it, you won a prize. I remember how great of a fundraiser it’s been for the Pittsville Community Library.
Baseball is synonymous with the Fourth of July. Unless Opening Day or a playoff game is on your birthday, you won’t see the all-American bunting and other designs that baseball stadiums display on July 4. Last year, I joined some friends at a Wisconsin Rapids Rafters’ game – and I loved the Stars & Stripes in the batters’ and catchers’ boxes at home plate. Of course, they were kicked away almost as soon as the umpire yelled “Play Ball.”
The Rafters play in the Northwoods League, which features some of the nation’s top college players. In 26 seasons, almost 220 Northwoods players have made the Major Leagues – including Auburndale native and UW-Stevens Point pitching standout Jordan Zimmermann. Pitching stars Chris Sale and Max Scherzer both played for Wisconsin Northwoods teams before starting against each other in the MLB All-Star Game in 2017. Once again this year, the Rafters will play a July 4 contest at home against Wausau’s Wisconsin Woodchucks.
Finally, in any given year, there’s a better chance you’ll work on your own birthday than on July 4. But if you have to work, enough public events and family picnics are spread throughout the holiday so that you should be able to celebrate in some way. Happy Fourth!