Mary E. Adair
The month that literally and virtually 'comes in with a Bang!' All over the USA, celebrations are held to commemorate the July Fourth Independence Day, but here in the city of Saint Louis, Missouri, they celebrate over a four day period. Each day different events are scheduled to capture the tourist's presence and the resident's attention.
Along with a huge varied parade in downtown streets around the Arch area, mammoth, commercially-staged fireworks displays astounded and amazed and deafened viewers the 1st, 2nd, and 4th of July. Twice a day, aerobatics were displayed in the same area ... no tame out-at-the-airport air show here! Right over and near the 630 ft tall Gateway Arch (the nation's tallest man-made monument) stunts were staged by pilots sending their planes into ten G's of speed, spiralling, looping, diving, and flying "backward" in controlled flight. These were the smaller planes. Also on hand were the military group jets that perform in such close proximity to each other that wingtips are as close at times as four inches. Just a fly over by the F16's is breathtaking. And then there were the skydivers.
The parade included, in addition to the more usual floats in all parades, one from the local zoo with a boa constrictor coiled around a pole in its cage, which shared the float with two more cages, one containing a baby gorilla. The third cage? To tell the truth, the boa and the gorilla was all this editor could see. And not to be missed in a local parade is the favorite attraction of the giant Clydesdales pulling the antique beerwagon. If you've not seen a Clydesdale, it is hard to imagine their size and beauty.
The second morning had the downtown area observing the ten K run with surprisingly cooler temperatures for the event. An inspirational sight for anyone, seeing all ages participating, some of the senior citizens with a lot of pizazz.
And then on the next morning, up the mighty Mississippi River bordering the city, sails the USS Black Hawk, a coast guard mine hunter. This is one of the 188ft long, 1000 ton ships with the newer construction of fiberglass, the largest ship able to sail this far up river. They docked at the north end of the Arch grounds and invited people to board and tour.
Then on the fourth, both the Mississippi Queen and the Delta Queen, luxury-class steam-driven paddlewheelers, each decked out in red white and blue bunting and rosettes, carried their passengers up to the Arch area in beautiful crisp sunshiny weather. This editor found it interesting to note that the passengers on the decks were all in combinations of red, white or blue clothing, and wondered if their attire had been designated for the event.
One on-going project during the Fair appealed to this west Texas gal in particular. A very talented designer and his crew did a sand sculpture extending about 20ft by 7ft portraying historical and artistic memories of Missouri, and Saint Louis especially. Several tons of sand were dredged from the Merimac River, then pressed and "ala-grapestomping stomped" to extrude the excess water so that a block was formed to serve as the 'raw material.' A skyline, including the centuries old city buildings, and the Arch, was interspersed with important people down through the years, actual and literary such as Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer on the raft, and a bust of the author, Mark Twain (Samuel Clements). Flanking the sides, the base was carved into relief, as though it were water streaming back from the sternwheel paddles of a large riverboat on one end of the sculpture, with that 'water wake' then turning into a wide banner emblazoned with music notes and the words "Rollin' down the river". Prominent musicians were shown as if playing for the crowd ... Scott Joplin, Chuck Berry, made the Blues and Jazz popular in this area.
Intricate details were apparent from end to end, with all completed during the Fair where bystanders could watch them emerge in the sand sculpture. Amazing enough, but the crew also managed to protect it from dissolving during two days with sudden rain showers. But, like sand castles at seaside, all was for such a brief period. It takes a certain type of personality to work at such art knowing the ultimate disappearance is only a matter of hours away. This editor is reminded of the ice carvings in the northern cities done for their festivals, yet, even they will stand as long as the cold weather permits.
What we're all celebrating, of course, is freedom. The freedom to which many here have been born to and thus seem to take for granted. The freedom that allows us to criticize our government with impunity. And, of course, someone always does. But, at this particular season, you do hear more patriotism than during the rest of the year.
As a youngster, my age group lived with the recent experience of gradeschoolers during WWII, and the gratitude to our parent generation that we had maintained our Freedom. Since then, through the experiences of the Korean Conflict, the Viet Nam holding pattern, and the on-going so-called 'cold war' many have lost their sense of Patriotism. It seems to be the baby boomer generation that has become the questioners and the 'agin'ers' for our nation. They would rather point out the flaws in anything than to appreciate the fact that you have the right to own something... even with its flaws.
Since my parent generation had survived the Depression, owning something became a standard for 'doing well.' Now, there are homeless ones scornful of even being told that there is a job with the possibility of a home for them. It is not what they want. But, in this country, they have learned to 'work the system' because so many who hold the pursestrings still have consideration for others. But, they have the choice to do that, and it seems, what borders on admiration from some who are so tired of their personal life that the idea of no responsibility is appealing.
Your editor has chosen the freedom to express all this in what usually would be a listing and preview of what the issue holds for the reader. Choosing to wax eloquent, or what passes here as eloquence, about what show of Patriotism does exist, is not done often enough by all of us, is the message. Speak up about the benefits of being an American. Really think about what privileges you have, other countries deny their citizens. Then be grateful, and show it by exhibiting your Patriotism--not just on the Fourth of July holiday, but throughout the year.
Just this once, this column leaves you to explore without discussion, all the good reading in this issue. This will NOT be a habit.
See you in August.