America’s Birthday, NYC-style
The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. It always has been. I’m not sure exactly why, but it’s some combination of summer, family, festivities, food and patriotism. For me, the Fourth has also typically been spent with a big family – grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – and on or near water, so those just make it that much better.
But this year, the Fourth was different. And I must admit it was the first time I’ve missed home or been a bit sad to not be home this summer. I have been missing family and friends, largely because it’s proven difficult to keep in touch and I don’t have anyone I’m super close to here, but most days I’m so busy and having such an amazing time that it doesn’t leave much room for homesickness. However, as the Fourth of July approached, a part of me was sad that I couldn’t spend it in Door County, staking out a spot for the parade, eating strawberry jello salad and watching fireworks on the boat. But at the same time, I was so excited to get to spend a Fourth in NYC because I had been told it was quite epic here. And, oh boy, it was.
I loved being in New York for the revolutionary history here. I’d never been on the East Coast for a Fourth, so I was very aware of being near where 1776 events actually happened. I went to Trinity Church for a service that morning and just sat in awe of the fact that I was in the same church that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton attended – even though in 1776 the church was a loyalist parish and would’ve been praying for King George. Today it’s very patriotic, though. We sang America the Beautiful as the closing hymn, and Stars and Stripes Forever rang out on the phenomenal organ as we left. I also spent time that day in the financial district around other landmarks, such as the pub where Washington and his generals hung out, and the history buff in me tingled a little bit at being in such the right place at the right time.
The downside to my Fourth in New York was the lack of a parade. This was shocking to me. Huge NYC Thanksgiving parade, Christmas parade, New Year’s parade … of course there would be a Fourth of July parade. Every town larger than 10 people has a parade – except New York. (Other things that were missing were sparkles, janky home fireworks and a cookout. Sad. Especially because my family has about 10 boxes of sparkles that we perpetually forget to use.) Instead of a parade, it seemed, New York has street fairs. So although I didn’t get sprayed by a fire truck or have candy chucked at me, I did get to walk through several blocks lined with vendors and food stands. I tried my first falafel and fried Oreo (the latter was much more enjoyable that the former) and sweated in the baking heat.
And then the main event: The fireworks. They capped the weekend and were by far the best fireworks I’ve ever seen. Ever. Times six. And no; not because Justin Bieber was there. Six barges in a line on the Hudson River shot of synchronized shows, and one of those shows alone would’ve been the best I’ve ever seen. They were closer, bigger, brighter and more unique (smiley faces!) than anything I’d seen. I felt like my eyes were going to burst out of my face from the overstimulation. Not kidding. And we had an amazing view. Sitting on Pier 84 right on the water, we could see the Macy’s sign on the barge in front of us.
So the show itself was very different from the small-town fireworks I’ve grown up with, but the rest of the experience really wasn’t. Trekking more than a mile to get to our spot (we walked all the way through Hudson River Park to the pier). Check. Sitting on a blanket. Check. Eating a picnic dinner and waiting for the sun to set. Check. Baking in the heat because that wait lasts five hours. Check. Walking from the show with a huge crowd. Check (though this crowd was far bigger than any in Crystal Lake or Door County).
Some things never change. And I like that.