Every family has traditions and mine is no exception. Especially when it comes to the Fourth of July.
Years ago, a party was hosted regularly at a relatives house. I honestly do not remember those, but the party eventually moved to my Grandma and Grandpa Parenteau’s farm. I grew up next door to them, which I took for granted as a child, but treasure the memories as an adult.
The July 4th party involved family, friends, food, fireworks and fun.
Some of you may have noted the somewhat zany antics of my own little family, but believe me, they seem rather tame once you get extended family involved. Over the next week or so, I’ll tell you some of the strange happenings from the weekend.
But for today, a little rundown on the normal events of the July 4th party:
The party takes place in Forest Lake, and I have three brothers who live there – Chris, Pat, and Paul. I fall between Pat and Paul, by the way.
My grandparents stopped having the party while I was in high school. About 14 years ago, my brother Chris decided to get it going again, and he and his wife Lara have been hosts ever since. It started as a one-day event, always on the Saturday closest to the 4th.
Now the weekend progresses something like this:
Friday afternoon or early evening, depending on when everyone arrives, me, my three brothers, all of their spouses and kids arrive. There may be a few family friends around depending on the year, but mostly just us and my folks.
And then the cooking commences.
Every year we deep fry turkeys in Chris’s garage. We used to do it during the party, but decided it worked better to do it the night before. This year we dialed it down a notch and only deep fried seven birds. We can do two at a time, and while one batch is cooling, another goes in. Me and some of the others started shredding the birds when they have cooled enough. Its a messy process, but a fun one because we are all visiting and laughing and joking. This year me and my friend/sister-in-law Maria (Paul’s wife) did the bulk of them, tacking a few smacks at sneaky fingers trying to help themselves. We really don’t mean it, though.
Saturday morning, the decorating begins. I’m not just talking about a few flags. By the time we are done, it looks like the Fourth of July threw up on Chris’s property. My son Matt and my niece Bailey get the newest photo board finished (we do them each year with the previous year’s photos) and then we hang them all up – both the new and all the old.
Either Friday night or Saturday morning, my brother Pat makes a huge batch of spicy chili. I can’t tell you what we usually call it, because I can’t use that word on my blog.
Our friend Dave, better known as Buzz (don’t ask why) shows up with pork loin and we start filling roasters. This year we had one full of plain, one full of barbecue and we put all the shredded turkey in another with a thin spicy gravy over it. I’m in charge of the gravy, but for the last few years my niece Kiki has heped me make it. Next year, I’ll just supervise while she does all the work!
Everyone that shows up brings more food. We started out years ago with two long tables. This year we had seven. And they were all full of dishes and plates and bowls. I can’t even begin to describe the food. It is the ultimate buffet of delight. And each year, Pat and his wife Tina (also friend/in-law), bring a keg of rootbeer. Yum!
People show up all day. Every time you wander through the garage, more food has been added, so you make a point to scope it out every hour or so.
The horse shoe tournament begins around 3 p.m. There is a traveling trophy involved, so its serious business(as serious as our family gets, which is not very!) The tourney is a blast, and draws a crowd in the backyard. By then, the side yard is full of vehicles, along with campers and tents for those staying over. While the horse shoe tourney is going on, so is the goofy golf tourney for the kids.
Around 6 or 7 p.m., the horse shoes stop for a bit so we can watch the kids beat on pinatas. This is a hilarious event that the adults take as much delight in watching as the kids do in participating. Generally during the pinata time, my son Nick does face paintings for the kids as they wait in line.
Saturday evening there is always music. My uncles will break out guitars and amps, or for a few years my nephew and his band played. Often it ends up with everyone singing or playing (we are a rather musical group). I once saw Chris almost inhale a small harmonica. This year, my daughter brought some friends that have a three-man band. They will get their own blog later this week.
Sunday, we serve breakfast. All the cooking gets done in the garage. Quite a few people stay over night, and many who didn’t stay come back for breakfast. Pat makes these wonderful spicy potatoes, Lara fries up a ton of bacon and makes pancakes. There are sweetrolls and fruit and scrambled eggs (made by my dad this year).
Before breakfast starts or while it is cooking, we clean up any messes left from the day before. It isn’t that bad, because the bonfire Saturday night takes care of any plates lying around, and the pneumatic can crusher Chris built keeps up with cans during the day. And people are pretty respectful of the yard anyway, which is great.
By the time we leave, everything is pretty tidy.
It is a great weekend, and so fun to see family and friends. My Uncle Tom and Aunt Janet came from Oregon this year. Last year my cousin Linda came from Florida. My Uncle Jerry and Aunt Dar come from Arizona quite often. This one day a year I get to see cousins and aunts and uncles that I would otherwise only see at a wedding or funeral.
So, the Parenteau-Wettschreck-Long-Ziebold-Nielson-Neavin-and everyone else clan celebrates America’s independence with togetherness, laughter, horse shoes, food and love. That is what makes this country great!