Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Wild West and July 4th Celebrations

By Carrie Aulenbacher, WMD Managing Editor

July of the country’s most celebrated dates.  A truly defining moment in American history.  We think of last year’s family picnic and our minds recall favorite fireworks displays from our childhood.  But was it always this way?

For those of us who feel we were born in the wrong century and wonder what our ‘Wild West’ selves would have been doing on the Fourth of July, let’s delve back in time and discover how this holiday has changed.

The holiday was celebrated for well over one hundred years before our government declared it a federal holiday.  But fervent, passionate Americans celebrated the day regardless.  Cities across the nation would hold gatherings in town squares where the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution was read aloud.  Preachers would recite prayers over the union.  Mayors would give speeches and kick off parades through town.

Still, some cities did nothing.  

As today, America was not in total agreement with things.  For some western towns, it was the same as any other day.  But most understood the import of how the signing of the Declaration brought about a freedom largely unknown to other countries and established ours as a truly blessed and amazing place.

There were large barbecue’s held in some towns across the west, and those who lived in the outskirts made a special trip to be there to celebrate.  

Three of the ten oldest currently running rodeos in America were established on July 4th.  The Deer Trail Rodeo in Colorado was established in 1869, 152 years ago.  The West of the Pecos Rodeo in Pecos, Texas was established in 1883 and Prescott Frontier Days in Prescott, Arizona, was established July 4th, 1888.  Rodeos were not only fun ways to show off a cowboy’s talent, but as these coincided with the holiday, they became an almost week-long event to celebrate America.

Because it came at the peak of growing season for much of the country, many cities and towns created festivals to go along with the holiday.  There were fruit festivals, church bazaars and even flower parades with elegant floats and much pageantry.  Any excuse to get together and celebrate was often enough for Americans.

As for those fireworks, they have been a part of Fourth of July celebrations since the first anniversary of the event in 1777.  Technically, this first fireworks display is thought to have been a morale booster for the troops still fighting the Revolutionary war.  Besides, if it had been good enough for the Queen of England back in the day, it was good enough for us Americans!

Whether we still have a local rodeo, or a flower pageant or even our mayor read the Declaration of Independence at noon in our town’s square, one thing remains the same: we pause to think about the country we live in and how it was established.

About Carrie Aulenbacher

I’m a working mom who’s been at her first official job for 19 years now. I’m a mom and wife who loves spending time outside exploring our woods and enjoying all sorts of nature. Just ask my friends on Facebook and they’ll tell you that my bug pictures are getting to be an obsession with me! 

Visit Carrie's Partner Page: click here!

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