Saturday, June 28, 2008

Celebrating The End Of June

Lewisburg has one of the most amazing end-of-June celebrations you could imagine. Here’s the plan for this year: Wednesday, Sousa in the park. Thursday, Yankee Doodle Dandy at the local movie theatre. Friday, a big band concert on the lawn followed by fireworks. Saturday, a parade followed by concerts on the lawn and picnicking under the trees.

If it sounds suspiciously like a 4th of July celebration, that’s because it’s not really an end-of-June celebration; it just happens to fall at the end of June. Lewisburg celebrates Independence Day a week early—and there’s good thinking behind it:

As a small town, Lewisburg isn’t a big draw for groups that might march in a parade here. Local High School bands tend to march in their hometown parades—and most of those are on the Saturday closest to July 4th. Bands travelling from Philadelphia or farther can find larger audiences on that holiday weekend than they’ll find in Lewisburg, so they aren’t available for the Lewisburg parade.

Move the parade a week before the holiday weekend, and you find a lot of open calendars. Several local high school bands participate, and a respectable assortment of bands comes from afar. In fact, the “week early” strategy has let the Lewisburg 4th of July parade to grow into one of the longest and most robust parades in the area.

With the parade a weekend early, it’s appropriate to hold the rest of the Independence Day celebration early as well. So, the music in the park program on Wednesday featured patriotic tunes as Sousa would have directed them. On Thursday, for a one dollar admission fee, residents could attend a screening of Yankee Doodle Dandy at The Campus Theatre—an art deco building that’s on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

The fireworks show held yesterday was sponsored by the Allbright Care Center at Riverwoods. For 25 minutes they launched aerials above a soccer field that’s nearly surrounded by tall trees. Through one wall of trees, there are baseball fields where spectators started arriving more than three hours before the launch. A big band style dance band played until dark, and people took up positions with lawn chairs and blankets. It was a generous show—as it is every year.

The parade and picnic are a fine exclamation point for the celebration. (Immediately after the parade, patrons and participants gather on a lawn at Bucknell University where bands play and several vendors sell hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, and other foods.)

We had packed a cooler and grabbed it from the car on our way from the parade route to the University. There, we met up with several friends and had a pleasant lunch in the shade. It was a fine end-of-June celebration.

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