Independence Day an invitation to come together

Just months after local residents were able to officially call their growing settlement the Village of Hinsdale in April of 1873, they celebrated their first Independence Day as an incorporated community.

Accounts of the initial Fourth of July festivities are not available, but some details of the second are (see story on Page 15). Bands, baseball and morale-boosting speeches highlighted the day.

But the occasion really took off here in 1898, as Timothy Bakken chronicles in his book “Hinsdale.” The Spanish-American War was winding down and patriotism was surging. A newspaper reported that the July 4 activities began with a reading of the Declaration of Independence from the steps of the Hinsdale Club (located on the southwest corner of First and Garfield and forerunner to The Community House), followed by a Burlington Park flag raising — the “largest in the county” according to the article.

The ensuing parade seemed like quite a spectacle, with everything from representations of the Potawatomi Nation, circus animals, a fife and drum corps and “other vague and mysterious things.” The procession marched to the makeshift park between Seventh and Eighth streets and Washington and Lincoln streets to watch a ball game between community members.

“This particularly fine Fourth was concluded by a downtown band concert that evening, and a pyrotechnic display set off from Maple and Washington,” Bakken writes. “As always, little boys spent the following day combing the fields for skyrocket sticks fallen to the ground. They made the perfect kite framing wood, and fluttering over the village were a final reminder of high times.”

While Hinsdale’s Fourth of July celebration may look different today, the spirit of solidarity and good old fashioned fun endure. There’s a timeless quality to the parade as well as the annual craft show in Burlington Park (where that huge Stars and Stripes once waved), with fireworks viewable around the area.

On a somber note, we can’t help but remember the horrific events of last Independence Day, when seven innocent Highland Park parade-goers were killed and dozens injured in a senseless act. May our turn out in support of our nation also serve as a stand in honor of them and against violence.

Those traveling for the holiday will not be alone. AAA projects 50.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or farther from home over the weekend, marking a record high for the holiday. The previous record was 49 million travelers in 2019. So please be safe on the road — and practice patience whether behind the wheel or behind a long line at the airport.

Much is said of the divisions in our polity these days, with seemingly more evidence presented of our polarization than our harmonization. The United States has, of course, experienced periods of inner turmoil before. The prayer is that the struggle serves to strengthen our democracy, not cause us to lurch toward elements of authoritarianism that we see wreaking havoc in other parts of the world.

So let’s mark this special day as a people united under a common love for what this country strives to be, if not a shared philosophy on how to get there. And enjoy the parade!