- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2001

It is a day to flex those patriotic muscles, to celebrate the star-spangled heart with a flag, a grin and a joyful noise.

But thank heavens: Independence Day remains independent. There's still a small-town spirit at work across America for the most part, no matter how many million-dollar extravaganzas unfold before the TV cameras.

Things will get off on the proper footing at 7:30 a.m. today when the good folks of Seward, Vt., break out the bellows and fire up the town anvil out on the courthouse lawn, followed by a flag raising and a community prayer service.

Around about 10:15, "Mrs. Elaine Bowen will be starting us off with the National Anthem, followed by Mr. Ted Truslow, who will sing 'America, the Beautiful,'" this according to the town's chamber of commerce, which has also organized a square dance, the crowning of Miss Independence and Mr. Firecracker and bingo for later on in the day.

The residents of Kenwood, Calif., meanwhile, will stage their annual July Fourth Pillow Fight, which involves damp pillows and a whole lot of mud for the losers.

"It is our 35th year," noted one organizer, who adds that proceeds go to local firefighters and they are healthy proceeds, indeed. Some 12,000 people come to witness the feather-flinging battle, not to mention "the Biggest Little Hometown Parade."

The parade in Sierra Madre near Los Angeles has its own take on the holiday.

"There is a lot of doo-dah in what we do," notes resident Sharon Doyle. "The community band plays the old Mickey Mouse theme. The kids blow bubbles. The lawyers have a float. And we round things out with a firetruck, which sprays the crowd, who in turn fire back with about 300 million water pistols."

Over in Bonfield, Ill., the parade theme this year is "You're a Grand Old Flag," with red-white-and-blue themes encouraged, though the parade committee asks that no one throw anything from their respective vehicles, and "there are no ATV's allowed in the parade this year because of some incidents last year. Sorry."

Diversity is the order of the day in Ridgewood, N.J., where parade marchers include the Salaam Temple Arab Patrol, the Caribbean Steel Drum Band, the Bergen/Passaic Coalition to End Gun Violence, the Tri-county Pipe Band and the Mount Carmel Catholic Daughters of the Americas.

There will be ice cream socials in Bisbee, Ariz.; Mount Morris, Pa.; and Seaside, Ore., while Marshalltown, Pa., will offer funnel cakes, pork burgers and turkey legs for its revelers. Meanwhile, Naperville, Ill., features 24 kinds of barbecued ribs from purveyors like Butch's Smak Your Lips BBQ, King Spud and Sergeant Oink's Pit.

Bib fronts will rule in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which has declared today an "Overalls Festival" complete with a contest to determine which local couple most resembles Grant Wood's "American Gothic" painting, which portrays man, wife, hayfork and fierce determination, among other things.

Patrick Lee will offer a portrayal of a different sort. The Missouri-based thespian is one of several actors around the country who portray Thomas Jefferson, complete with homespuns and knee britches.

He will make two appearances today on the steps of the Old Courthouse in Jefferson City, along with an Abraham Lincoln impersonator and a brass cornet band.

Mr. Lee has never grown cynical about his role, even when the crowds press about him and the lace of his antique shirt gets a bit close in the heat. It is still Fourth of July, and it is still dear to his heart.

"I don't just wear the clothes," Mr. Lee said. "I become the man."

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