Denise and I spent the 4th of July in South Dakota visiting my family. Yes, I know I was just there - but my brother Ron and his family were planning to visit, and Denise wanted to see her Grandparents. Besides, my last visit was a pretty quick one. So Denise, Bear and I hopped into the car for another trip halfway across the country - bound for my hometown!
Patriotic colored fireworks
It had been a couple of years since I'd experienced a "real" 4th of July celebration. Last year, Roger was out of town, and Denise was working, so I spent the evening of the 4th in the house calming a terrified doggie (Bear does NOT like fireworks!) The year before, Roger and I went backpacking and missed it all. So I was ready for a traditional celebration of the 4th!
Kids love smoke bombs
My parents had a houseful for the evening cookout/celebration. All my siblings and their families, (except for one brother), my aunt and her husband, my sister's in-laws, and Denise's roommate and her dad happened to be traveling though - and stopped by for the festivities. Luckily, my parents have a huge, beautiful backyard that's perfect for an outdoor party.
The kids had fun blowing around the dry ice smoke
My sister had the great idea to make home-made root beer. It's really easy - all you need is lots of sugar and water. Then add root beer extract and - the best part of all - some dry ice. When the dry ice is added to the mixture, it smokes like witches brew. That was a big hit with all the kids.
A line up of kids by the root beer pot
All of the little kids gathered around the kettle of root beer, trying first to catch the smoke in their mouths (does it taste like root beer?) and then trying to blow the smoke around. Of course, I had a great time trying to photograph the scene.
Nicholas (I think!) having fun
Once the smoke died down we all got to try the root beer. It was really good!
The grill crew
Of course, it wouldn't be the 4th of July without a big cookout. And my folks did not disappoint! We had all the good food - hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and much, much more.
Time to chow down!
There was so much food, if you walked away hungry it was your own fault!
Time for sparklers
After we ate, it was getting dark enough to break out the sparklers. My brother Brian bought tons of fireworks that he generously shared with all the little kids.
Uncle Brian is a very popular guy!
The kids had a blast. We had seven kids running around with sparklers in hand. Once a sparkler went out, they swarmed Brian for more.
Alisha helps the little boys
I think Brian had just as much fun as the little kids!
Julia shows me her sparkler
I tried to capture the scene best I could. But the light was getting low, and the activity high. It was hard to get shots that weren't blurry. But I did get a couple I liked.
Mark and my Dad trying to get the potato gun to fire
Then my brother Mark decided to fire off Dad's potato gun. It had been awhile since the gun had been fired, so it took a little coaxing. A crowd gathered to watch the show.
My Dad, Mark, and Brian tried all kinds of things to get the gun to fire (some were really flammable!) I was kind of worried we'd get a bad explosion. Most of us lost interest and wandered back towards the food. Then we heard a loud BANG! Mark had one successful shot, and most of us missed it.
Who wants ice cream?
It's a tradition at my parents house to make home-made ice cream for the 4th of July. There is nothing that tastes better! My mom made these killer creme de menthe brownies to compliment the ice cream. We all found a little more room in our tummies!
Mmmmm .... good!
After a good meal, ice cream, and brownies, I was stuffed. Good thing I was running tomorrow, I had some calories to burn.
My hometown always has a great fireworks display in a local city park. Once it was dark, we all packed up and drove down to the park to get a viewing spot. I left Bear in the basement with my little twin nephews and their mom. All the bangs and booms from the fireworks around the neighborhood had worked Bear into a frenzy, and he needed to hide out for awhile.
I brought my camera and tripod and thought I'd attempt to get some firework photos. Last time I tried this, I was still shooting film. I shot an entire roll of 36 exposures and got terrible results. My problem was I did not use a slow enough shutter speed, so the fireworks looked like tiny dots of light. Hoping to have learned from this experience, I was back to try again. This time, with a digital camera, I could shoot away, and delete all my bad shots. I love digital!
The grand finale
I had success! There were at least half a dozen photos that were keepers. And I had a lot of fun trying to catch the firework blasts. The display was great - it must have gone on for at least 20 minutes. It was a beautiful show. What a great way to end the day!
It was nice to celebrate the 4th in my hometown with my family. It doesn't get any more traditional than that. Happy 4th of July everybody!