Marc Carlisle: The 4th may stand for more than just flag-waving |

Marc Carlisle: The 4th may stand for more than just flag-waving

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and like everyone else I plan to spend the morning at a parade and the evening under the sparkle and flash of fireworks.

In the High Country, you have a choice of parades as well as firework displays, although remember to lock your door when you head out to watch the fireworks. The flashes and the booms and the oohs and the aahs are great cover for breaking and entering by the less patriotic.

My personal preference for fireworks is watching Frisco’s from the vantage point of a boat on the lake, and for the parade I put Breckenridge at the top. Now, don’t expect great things from their parade ” certainly the Town is Palm Beach wealthy, but it’s still a very small town, and besides, the parade is past its prime.

It’s a form of live entertainment with few skilled artisans left and even fewer apprentices mastering the gobbing of crepe paper that makes a good float great. No one’s to blame for the decline in paradesmanship. If there were a culprit, someone would certainly have taken them to court by now, along with the Elks and Lions and Shriners who tossed candy to children, only to discover that one child’s sweet treat was a parent’s opportunity for a big cash settlement.

With lawsuits lurking around any corner, the parade has become a tame expression of national enthusiasm and civic pride. Even so, the parade in Breckenridge makes a splash, and reminds me in a most unexpected way that the floats and the fireworks do have a purpose and a point.

Whether you are aware of the Firecracker 50 or not is unimportant. What is important is that the Firecracker brings to the start of the Breckenridge parade a sight you cannot find anywhere else in the country on the Fourth of July. Heading the parade will be bikes, not one or a dozen or even one hundred, but several hundred bikes and riders en route to the sort of fun that only a 50-mile bike race can offer. I’ve never done the race myself, although I’ve often ridden parts of the course from year to year in search of friends to cajole, goad, encourage, whatever it took to help them along sections of trail where neither the spirit nor the flesh were willing.

The rush of racers off the start down Main Street is one-of-a-kind, as is the touch of solemnity that occurs just before the start. As the riders settle on to their bikes in anticipation of the starter’s pistol, an announcer will catch many of them unawares as he asks them to give their attention to Bonnie Smith-Allen as she sings our national anthem.

The first time I heard her sing I was caught so flat-footed I only remembered to take off my bike helmet just as she finished singing, so if you’re racing tomorrow, consider yourself forewarned to lose the lid as she starts. With or without a helmet, I’m thankful that she and those who may follow accept the challenge of singing a difficult melody unaccompanied, outdoors, in public, on a crowded street, to a distracted audience through a portable public address microphone ill-suited to carry a tune. I don’t particularly like the national anthem, either the lyrics or the tune. Rather, the anthem, like the pledge and the flag, are triggers, like Pavlov’s bell, for an engrained reaction, of pride, patriotism, and country.

Curious, though, that the starting line of the Firecracker is the only place and time I’ll hear the national anthem on our national holiday, of all days. Certainly I’ll hear a lot of music today. You can’t have a good fireworks display without Mellencamp, McGraw, the Boss and, of course, the Master, John Phillips Sousa.

But I’ll wager dollars to doughnuts I won’t hear the national anthem again, live or recorded, until next year. Television stations once concluded their broadcast day with the anthem, but no longer since they never sign off. School athletic events once began with the anthem, and I am unfamiliar with what high tech, low comprehension methodology parents and teachers use instead of an anthem or a pledge to engrain a sense of nation and citizenship.

While the floats and fireworks tomorrow will be great, neither built a nation, nor make the day, Independence Day, in a way that one voice did and can and will, for me.

Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at

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