Fourth of July in Cedar Rapids
(Blake Blvd on Independence Day)
July 4 in America comes with a variety of meanings, besides the explicit one of being the anniversary of U.S. independence. It certainly is also a celebration of civic life. Much of what we do on the Fourth we do together, with family, friends, and--this is where the civic part comes in--bunches of fellow townspeople. In Cedar Rapids the celebration gets stretched out over several weeks, coordinated out of a downtown office by the Freedom Festival, which is a non-profit corporation with a board of directors and staff and everything.
But with apologies to Chalk the Walk, the Balloon Glow, and Movie Night at the Kernels, the big day remains the Fourth. This year the Fourth was exceptionally fine, weather to write home about. The day began early, with races through the southeast side sponsored by the Cedar Valley Running Association. The route took them down Grande Avenue, a block from my house. I caught the end of it; you can't quite see runners or spectators in this not-very-good picture, but they were there:
People were seated in lawn chairs along the route, cheering on the runners, but also visiting (adults), playing (children) and looking for playmates (dogs). Many of the houses were decked out for the holiday:
I got greeted by any number of people I didn't know as I walked through. It was truly beautiful. "Nice day," someone said. "Sure is," I said. "And a lot of runners," he continued. I, being a non-runner unless attacked, thought about saying, "It's not that nice," but I didn't.
Things started early downtown with a pancake breakfast on 1st St. It was ending by the time we got downtown, and things were pretty quiet. The Veterans Memorial Coliseum, badly damaged in the 2008 flood, is nearly repaired, and we got in to see the restored Grant Wood window.
The Riverfront Amphitheater/levee project is nearly finished as well. It will be open in August, but can be seen here from the 3rd Av Bridge. Would-be trespassers were discouraged by a friendly but bored security guard smoking and listening to rap music (not picured).
Meanwhile they were setting up on the bridge for the evening crowds they were expecting...
...with good reason. Come evening I couldn't believe the lines for corn dogs and funnel cakes!
Well before sunset, people were massed on the 3rd Av bridge...
...and on the lawn in front of the Veterans Memorial Building...
...all along the riverwalk, spread out through various other downtown vantage points, and even atop the 4th St parking garage:
The crowds were entertained by Dogs on Skis, here playing "Fat Bottomed Girls":The stage was in the same 1st St. parking lot as the morning's pancake breakfast, making two imaginative uses in one day for one of downtown's sea of surface parking lots.
There were some unusual t-shirts--two men in two different places were wearing t-shirts proclaiming them to be "Tattooed and Employed"--but I saw not a trace of surliness. We were all about celebration not confrontation.
Eventually, the sun set and fireworks ensued... not just downtown or at the other officially-sanctioned shows at the country clubs, but seemingly throughout the town. As I walked home along 1st Av. there were bombs bursting in air in all directions. Hope everyone still has all their eyes and fingers!
After a day of celebrations, it was more than just noise and flash, more than just running, more than a funnel cake procured after heaven knows how long a time spent in line, more than just a sunny pleasant day off work. It was a day with fellow citizens.
(Your correspondent hopes you'll notice he is bedecked in red, white and blue,
and that he is wearing his Freedom Festival button)