Sunday, July 05, 2009

Faces of the Fourth

We were first attracted to Milltown, NJ as much by what wasn’t here as what was. And what’s still missing remains one of the appeals.

There wasn’t/isn’t much crime or chains or traffic or industry or high-rises. To date our borough of about 7000 still doesn’t have a Wal-Mart, a movie theater, a McDonald's, or a high school. You can find all these within a few miles of course, but they're not here in Milltown.

What we do have is a barber shop, a hardware store, a taxidermist, and a place to buy an ice cream cone on a summer night. There are streets with sidewalks, several good sized parks and paved path which winds along the lake/river that cuts through the middle of town.

But Milltown is at its Norman Rockwell best on the 4th of July. There’s a fishing derby, a fun run, and a parade featuring Veterans’ groups from Milltown and neighboring towns, local boy and girl scouts troops, antique cars, and what must be every fire truck and emergency vehicle within a 20 mile radius that has a working siren.

Post-parade, the colors are presented at Borough Park and an afternoon of entertainment, kids’ rides and free hot dogs and birch beer continues until the fireworks start at 9:30.

This year, I captured a lot of the day in pictures. Not surprisingly, the most interesting photos were of people.

I took one shot of what might have been a middle-aged woman and her 20-something daughter, laughing hysterically while riding on a spinning carnival ride clearly intended for kids. I imagined one dared the other with some back and forth dialogue like, “Remember how much fun this was when we were kids?" and "I don’t care if someone laughs, they won’t be laughing harder than you and me!”

There’s one of a guy juggling while riding a five foot unicycle and trading barbs with onlookers. What possessed him to want to do this? How do you practice to be good at this? His legs must be tired; there are hills on the parade route! And he’s cracking jokes, too!

I took some shots of the Mummers that marched, wondering how much their elaborate costumes must weigh (and cost) and how hard they must be to care for.

And then there are my two favorite pictures – one of a pair of long-retied firemen, in full dress uniform, sitting in the shade outside the Main Street Firehouse, talking quietly amidst the activities swirling around them. Perhaps they were recalling past moments of bravery or fellow firefighters now long gone.

But my favorite picture was of a Milltown Vet/Legionnaire, returned from marching at the head of the parade, now sitting and taking in the rest of the procession with his kids and what I assume were his grandkids that was my favorite. There was enough in his face and eyes to fill a book – or a several incredible breaks on a show the Monday after the 4th.

I tried to be extra observant yesterday because knew I wanted to blog today about my 4th of July (that's also what I would have done if I was going to be on the air tomorrow). I wanted to have some interesting stories to tell when people ask, as they will, “How was your 4th?”

I wanted to be ready to participate in what is going to be the number one talk about for many. I wanted to be prepared to share some stories to share about my town, its people, and the way we celebrate Independence Day. I wanted to think about how to frame them so that you'll readily recognize YOUR town and YOUR experiences in my stories - you versions of memorable people and their stories because I'm certain that there are a lot of interesting citizens and stories in your town that I too would find interesting and relatable.

Reports are about facts; stories are about feelings. What interesting stories will you have prepared to share with your friends and listeners about your 4th?

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