If you happen to be brooding somewhere deep in your own urban crisis when the Fourth of July rolls around, just as sure as there's gin in the tonic somebody is going to ask what happened to those good old Fourths—days committed to three-legged races, the aroma of hot dogs on hot air, shrieks at a Softball game and shouts of oratory in the park. It used to be a real Roman Candle of a day. It still is, but to find it you have to get off the freeways and the turnpikes that now bypass most of America's small towns. Here and on the following pages are the celebrations of Eveleth, Minn., where kids and Calumpthian (def: a noisy parade) make the Fourth rank first as a holiday; at Bexley, Ohio, where church floats roll beneath elm and oak; at Stonington, Me., where the games haven't changed but the prizes have—the winners once got silver dollars but now, alas, mere dollar bills; and finally at Kotzebue, Alaska, where, perhaps to make up for lost time, the Fourth of the North lasts a whole week.
For 40 years the Fourth has had its special bounce as the gunnysack race down Grant Avenue spurs the competitive spirit. Just as athletically minded is the group (upper right) about to join the parade, where it will represent those sports common to the town.
You've got to love a parade, even one that makes the marchers as tense as these from nearby West Milton. They, along with such prizewinners as the Methodist church's Johnny Appleseed, celebrate American history. Honored, too, is the flag, as cyclers swirl past one and a contestant holds another.
The glory of the Fourth is as often as not the glory of competition. Sometimes it's neat as a Betsy Ross float, sometimes it's sweaty as the climb up Russ' Hill in the four-mile footrace, sometimes it's itchy as a burlap bag and sometimes it's, well, it's a lot more fun than Mom ever let's a fellow have at home.
July 6, 1969
Adapting their old games to their new holiday, Eskimos celebrate the Fourth Alaskan style with a treacherous form of blanket toss—the main object is height—and a female tug-of-war, the natives against the outlanders, an event the native ladies have never lost.