Independence Day is the holiday we wait for all year long—great weather, good times, and fun food with our favorite people—celebrating the freedom and ideals we enjoy as Americans. If you’re looking for red, white and blue ways to fill the day (between BBQs and fireworks, of course!) here are a few different ideas that can help “up” the fun for all involved.
And that doesn’t mean just sit at home on the couch. (Amazing as that can be, we’ve seen quite enough of our sofas this year, don’t you think?!) Nope, we mean head out to a green space near you! You know, with trees, grass, flowers and such. Why? Well, the first Saturday in July just happens to be “National Hop-a-Park Day” (we’d never heard of it either—but it’s officially “a thing”) and this year it’s sharing billing with the 4th. Think of it as a great way to show your patriotism, engage with Mother Nature, and unplug the kids (and yourselves) for a while! Now, a “park” can of course be any national, state or city one near you (further flung if you’re up for a trip) or even just that patch of green around the corner from your house. Visit as many or as few on the 4th as you like. Bring the family, pack a lunch, throw a ball, or don’t. The rules are, there are no rules—aside from those marked at the parks themselves! Organizers just ask that you have a great time and when you share about it on social, you include the hashtag #NationalHopaParkDay in your post. It’s great to incorporate new traditions into old . . . and a “walk in the park” always goes down as a day well spent!
Tie It, Dye It, Work It.
Create patriotic tie-dyed t-shirts, jeans, everything in-between. Make it part of the party . . . or arrive dressed to impress! And hey, your efforts won’t just be for having something to wear on the 4th. You can rock your creation all summer long—and beyond—as tie-dye (yes, you’re reading that correctly) has emerged, or should we say reemerged, as one of the year’s biggest fashion trends! Zillions of us are once again into the hippie clothing vibe that defined the late ’60s/early ’70s and we have 2020 shelter-in-place to thank for it! Now, it’s not just the “look” of tie-dye, but specifically the act of “doing” the tying and dying ourselves that has taken off, born out of the boredom of isolation as a fun way to unwind and destress while stuck at home. The search term “DIY tie-dye” surged in popularity on Google and YouTube the last week of March, and tie-dye kits are among Amazon’s hottest-selling crafting items, with no signs of cooling as July sets in. And why not . . . there’s only so much jig-saw puzzling, book reading and sourdough starter-ing that one can do! Plus, it could give a new and on-trend flair to fashions you already got hanging around your closet and haven’t worn in a while. Upcycling for the environment is definitely something we can all get onboard with—roll up your sleeves and have fun!
Have BBQ guests bring their version of “Mom’s famous apple pie,” then blindfold taste-test a winner! While you’re at it, regale them with a bit of apple pie history with answers to questions such as “How did it become ‘America’s dessert’?” and “What’s up with the saying ‘American as apple pie’ anyway?!” Well, for starters, the first record of apple pie anything dates to 1381 England when the author and poet Geoffrey Chaucer (perhaps best known for The Canterbury Tales), printed the first-known recipe for apple pie, which gives him credit for actually inventing it! Evidently, that recipe was a hit as a tradition for baking these pies took root in England and Europe and was eventually brought to America during colonization by Swedish, Dutch and British immigrants. (Luckily, the early-American pioneer Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman had been busy planting imported apple seeds to make up for the fact that only crabapple trees grew here natively!) Though each of these groups had their own variations of apple pie, the dish was embraced as “uniquely American” rather than noting a specific cultural origin. Why? Because it was something that everyone in America loved regardless of where they came from. Bolstering this, the oldest American apple pie recipes are credited to the 1796 Amelia Simmons publication American Cookery (regarded as the first American cookbook), which includes two for apple pie, neither of which references any overseas origins. So, in spite of its foreign roots, the sheer agreement around, participation in, and love for apple pie by all gave birth to the phrase “as American as apple pie,” which by the mid 1800s was being applied to almost anything born out of American ingenuity. During World War II, the phrase “for mom and apple pie” was made famous by American soldiers as an answer to reporters who asked them what they felt they were fighting for. And yes, should you wonder: there really was a “Granny Smith.” Maria Ann “Granny” Smith (1799 – 1870) was a British-Australian orchardist who became responsible for the cultivation of the Granny Smith Apple! Legend has it that she used a box of French crabapples grown in Tasmania to bake some pies; tossing the remaining peels and seeds onto a compost heap. Some months later, she observed an apple growing from the compost, which she tended to carefully, and voilà . . . (long story short), the seeds from it were cultivated to become the Granny Smiths we enjoy today! No word as to the origins of the phrase “easy as pie.” Might just be simpler to eat some pie than figure that one out. So, dig in . . . and, oh yeah: may the best apple pie win!
Put up a tent and camp out in your yard. Build a fire, sing songs, spend the night—or just crash in it after all that apple pie! But really, who doesn’t love camping?! Okay . . . lots of us! Before you completely swear off the idea of a night outside under the stars, consider that a backyard sleepover could be an easy way to test out a larger, more rugged outing without the effort of an actual trip. Aside from the “roughing it” aspect, filling your time outside could be the biggest challenge, especially if your family (OR YOU) is used to having a steady-stream of WIFI to keep entertained. If the signal doesn’t reach the yard, maybe these day-to-night activities will help:
Before the sun goes down, unplug-approved activities for your crew could include classic lawn games like bocce, cornhole and croquet. You could also explore the wilderness that is your own yard and neighborhood with nature-oriented scavenger and treasure hunts.
Up the ante and adventure-factor by doing this with flashlights when it starts to get dark. Actually, anything that illuminates (aside from phones and tablets) will save the evening—never underestimate the fun of a glow-in-the dark frisbee competition!
If you don’t have an actual fire pit (and really, who does?) those flashlights also work perfectly to set the scene for campfire stories, charades, board games, sing-alongs, and s’mores (that you snuck inside to microwave) . . . all while gazing at the heavens and naming those starry constellations.
When it’s all said and done, nobody will miss their devices. Much. (We hope!) And if the novelty totally wears off, it’s always a quick trip back inside the house. Remember, there’s no shame in retreat; as with anything, it’s always the effort that counts!
Whether these all-American ideas are exceptional or not, we hope they were at least informative and entertaining to read as we set out to celebrate our independence. The important thing is to just have fun! On behalf of our Vionic family to your family, we wish you all a very happy and safe 4th of July.